Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsOpera

So Says

Thomas R. Kendrick

May 04, 1986|LEROY WOODSON JR. | LeRoy Woodson Jr. is a Long Beach writer and photographer.

Thomas R. Kendrick, 52, is executive director of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, now under construction in Costa Mesa. A former newspaper editor, he spent a decade helping to guide the Kennedy Center in Washington to national prominence before coming to California in January. The Orange County center's inaugural season begins Sept. 29. Q: What are your goals for the Orange County Performing Arts Center? A: This administration stands for balanced programming, meaning symphony, ballet, opera, musicals, jazz--all the disciplines. Second, to encourage and present regional theater and orchestras and encourage them to flourish. The South Coast Repertory Theatre (which is planning to use the center's 3,000-seat theater, as well as their own adjacent facility) is a wonderful asset. It's been in existence 20 years. It's got a full subscription. It's got a very fine, top-flight regional--and somewhat of a national--reputation already. The Pacific Symphony is a fine regional orchestra.

We don't know what kind of audience we have here. It's not an audience trained to come to ballet, opera and all that we're presenting. We don't know whether we're going to be full or whether we'll have a problem attracting audiences for the various disciplines.

The main hall, seating 3,000, will be opening in September. Then the next theater to be built is supposed to be a 1,000-seat multipurpose hall, which will be used half the time by South Coast Rep. We also have a black box theater adjacent to the main hall designed for television production that can seat 300. It will serve as a rehearsal facility as well.

The advantage of a multipurpose hall is lower overhead and tighter programming. The disadvantage--and it's a tremendous one--is that you're trying to bring in five media into one place. You're trying to juggle all those companies into one hall instead of four. The scheduling is almost impossible because symphony tours are set. Symphonies come with particular dates set way in advance. Musicals are less set; operas are set.

We're trying to present the very best in the country. We're going with what some people, I'm sure, are going to criticize as standard fare versus experimental fare. Changes will occur down the road when we've measured the audience. The ticket prices are high to begin with because (our endowment doesn't come into play for five years and) the symphony requires subsidy, ballet requires subsidy, opera requires subsidy. You've got to learn to walk before you can run. Q: What's a former newspaperman doing in this line of work? A: Twenty years ago you would have stayed in the same place all your life. You know, I started off at the Washington Post as a copy boy and went on to become assistant managing editor of the paper, overseeing the Style section and the Post's cultural coverage, before going over to the Kennedy Center (as director of operations). I had developed a very strong interest in the performing arts. My experience from the Post was management, plus budget, plus people. That was 10 years ago. There were no people trained as arts institution managers. As a reporter, you're trained in translating vocabularies. People talk in the language they develop in specialized areas. As a reporter, you discover that if you can translate a particular language, the problems are the same. Q: How does your Washington experience--the political and congressional contacts, the artistic contacts--benefit you here? A: A lot. It's very, very useful. My first political experience came in survival at the Washington Post, which is no mean trick. I figure if you can survive there, then you can operate as the manager of an institution that is as much of a lightning rod--and in the public eye--as the Kennedy Center. After 30 years, you've acquired a lot of political experience.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|