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Rick Stein


Time in Greater OC: 32 Years

Neighborhood: San Juan Capistrano

Hometown: All over the U.S. as an Air Force brat.

What are you currently working on?

Updating research on Korean theatre scene I first conducted in 1988 when I visited Seoul as part of a three week visit, sent by the International Theatre Institute-US, in connection with my cultural bridge-building initiative while managing director of the Grove Shakespeare Festival in Garden Grove.

What's been inspiring you recently?

What continues to inspire me most are writers for the theatre who create works that demand that the audience pay attention and employ their own imagination, as opposed to using the stage to tell stories best communicated on screen.

Tell us a story from your childhood that illuminates who you are as an artist.

For two years, I lived without TV in Morocco, and devoured the musical theatre recordings owned by my parents. When they returned from a trip to London and brought back the libretto and cast album of "My Fair Lady," my younger brother and I memorized the show. Upon our return to the US, my parents took us to see it on Broadway and had to cover our mouths so that we wouldn't sing along.

What kind of theatre excites you?

Visceral and literate works that invite (or force) you to use your imagination.

Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

Joseph Papp, whom I met once, had a vision and fiercely pursued it--not only to bring free Shakespeare to the people, but to introduce the work of contemporary writers to audiences--succeeding all against immense odds and opposition. Hal Prince, whom I also met once, championed the contemporary Broadway musical, sometimes works that were groundbreaking, sometimes works that were crassly commercial, but always bold. Papp was a producer & entrepreneur, Prince was a producer & director, and I pursued that combination in my career.

What's the craziest thing you have ever needed to do for theatre?

In this day & age, it is crazy just to have the confidence to produce theatre!

Outside of a theatre, what's your favorite hot spot in Orange County?

There's a great vibe at Memphis next to The LAB, a kind of downscale authenticity to the place, that I enjoy for a drink or lunch.

What surprises you the most about your role in the theatre community?

My longevity as head of Laguna Playhouse (over 17 years) is somewhat of a rarity in the world of LORT theatres (of course, SCR is a notable exception). But post-Laguna, where much of what I produced and directed was of necessity for mainstream audiences, I've been able to stage occasional readings by some exceptional writers whose work I would not have been able to program at the Playhouse. Today, mostly, I am doing more for the theatre community in my role as President & CEO of Arts Orange County, where I promote and advocate for the arts and arts funding, which is very satisfying for someone who has been a local arts leader now for 32 years.

What advice do you have for theatre artists just starting out in Orange County?

Take risks--you'll surprise yourself and others.

Go ahead, promote your things...

Though I haven't contributed to it in several years, my blog contains most of the six articles that were published in AMERICAN THEATRE magazine as well as my musings about theatre and life.

Rick Stein
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