A Conversation with ArtReach Founder Kathryn Schultz Miller - Part II
This is part two of my interview with Kathy, the founder of the American Repertory Theatre Company’s ArtReach Program. It was my first real job as an actor. (Part one has Kathy’s bio and how we first met.)
Kathryn: What were the nuts and bolts to organizing and running ArtReach?
Kathy: Unlike many theatre people, I really enjoyed the business aspect of it. I put a lot of emphasis on booking a full calendar. We went to two schools a day and did as many as 3 shows a day. It was hard work but we booked that calendar 5 days a week for 9 months every year. We did literally thousands of performances a year. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into plotting the route and itinerary to make it all run smoothly.
(Kathryn: And there’s a lot of work that goes into setting up, performing and driving from school to school for two or three shows a day!)
Kathy: The most difficult aspect of it for me was personnel. It’s difficult to get young actors to commit for 9 months to a strenuous tour. Many loved the idea of “winning” at auditions but simply didn’t like the real hard work of touring. Many actors think doing children’s theatre is beneath them, so you have to always try to convince them that the work is important. (By the way I think this attitude has changed quite a bit over the years.) It was hard to find people who really loved the work and did a great job. That said, I always felt our success was due to the wonderful work of the extremely talented actors who did work hard and did do a terrific job.
Kathryn: How big of a role did Barry have in it?
Kathy: I met Barry through the friends I had at Young People’s Theatre. We actually started ART together with three other friends. Barry was President of ART at its inception. A year later we got married, not long after that we put all our efforts behind ArtReach. I guess you could say we were a husband and wife team, I was Artistic Director but his involvement was equal to mine.
Kathryn: In comparison, what is ArtReach today? Is it still going strong? Are you going to be handing it on to someone else?
Kathy: By 1996, I had been with the company for 20 years, most of that time running it myself. I felt it was time to move on. I turned the reins over to a similar company from Richmond VA, Theatre IV. I have to say I was not that happy with how they handled the company, so I was glad when Theatre IV gave it up after about six years and ArtReach became a program under the Cincinnati Children’s Theatre. Kelly Germain engineered all that, she’s Artistic Director, and I have great confidence in her (she started as an actor in the company and directed shows for me). Under Kelly’s leadership the company has done well.
Kathryn: Stay tuned for the third and final part of the interview with ArtReach founder Kathryn Schultz Miller next week.
About Kathryn SpiraKathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com.
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