Meet the new face behind Shadowland Theater
By Blaise Schweitzer
POSTED: 12/10/04;| UPDATED: 12/10/2004
SATURDAY INTRODUCES more than the "poetic flair" of Megan Cary's voice to the Hudson Valley, it is the first Shadowland Theater event under artistic director Brendan Burke, who is taking the helm after the departure of William Morris.
Cary and Burke are not new to Shadowland, but this is the first Cary concert in Shadowland's lobby and the first new programming Burke is introducing with his new hat.
Q. What other hats you've worn at Shadowland, other than your new producing artistic director hat?
A. I probably have worn all of them. I've been coming up here to do at least one show a year for 10 summers. I started just as an actor hired out of New York and during that first summer it was noticed I could use a screw gun and was a half-way decent carpenter so I was asked to stay on technically. I have designed, directed, scooped dead critters out of the basement. Pretty much everything.
Q. And you've also worn high heels ...
A. Yes, I'm the resident drag queen. A lot. I did Irma Vep for a wonderful Charles Ludlam piece and I was in a dress for that. I did "Compleat wrks of Wllm Shkspr abridged" in a dress and "Love Sex and the IRS." Bill (Lelbach, another former artistic director) had a habit of putting me in dresses.
Q. Which is easier, wearing pumps or pumping contributors to support Shadowland?
A. Actually, the contributors are pretty generous and they're motivated. That's not as difficult as trying to run across the stage in a pair of three-inch red pumps.
Q. Just for the record, you are not the same Brendan Burke from NYC who performed in "Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story" are you? It is described as a "phenomenal mockumentary about the world of the paintball sub-culture."
A. No I'm not. I thought I knew all the Brendan Berkes in New York.
Q. Doesn't Actors Equity ensure no two actors use the same name?
A. It does, but he might be SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) and actually my union name is Brendan Patrick Berke.
Q. Your predecessor, William V. Morris, recently left after his three year contract with Shadowland expired. In his last Daily Freeman interview he said Shadowland is a bit of a miracle, surviving in a town that is generally considered too small to support a theater that hires Actors Equity professionals. Is Shadowland so close to the edge of the cliff?
A. I'd say the demographic ... I wouldn't say it's too small, but we are very ambitious with the money we get and where we are located. If we were in Westchester we'd probably be sailing pretty easily right now, but we're not. I think that's part of the appeal. Its an underdog story and that's part of its appeal to me, anyway. This is going to be a little more difficult and people are coming here not to work for money or as a job but because they believe in the place and its mission.
Q. New, under your tenure, is this "Lobby Concert Series" beginning Saturday with Meghan Cary's concert. This will keep the theater going on a more year-round basis?
A. Certainly my first goal was to have the place open as much as possible. Financially it's just not possible right now to open up the whole theater and we're also in the middle some renovations with a grant from the Catskill Watershed Corporation -- so the space also isn't available. So I was thinking, 'how could we start small' and this is kind of taking a negative and making a positive. We have a nice little lobby that we can heat separately, we can afford to heat. It has the charms of a small acoustic café. There's not one in Ellenville. There's something to do on a Friday or Saturday night. Come down, have some nice food and listen to some really great music.
Q. You have a liquor license?
A. Aroma Thyme Bistro is going to be setting up the food sales. They were just named Best New Restaurant in Hudson Valley magazine and we were Best Theater so we're trying to get the Best of Ellenville together. We have an off-site (liquor) license through them.
Q. Who else is on deck for the next shows?
A. I haven't solidified anyone yet. I just spent yesterday talking with a few people. We should have the announcement by the 11th.
Q. Could you describe the renovations going on? Will they affect the Art Deco lobby, where these performances will take place?
A. The building is Art Deco 1920s. It's a gorgeous little space. The renovations we're doing are on the electric system in the theater and some other physical stuff. What we're going to be doing is setting up the lobby like a café, a little more elegant.
Q. What other changes might you bring to Shadowland?
A. We have a lot of changes, actually. The first thing was the concert series and then in the summer time we're making a couple of changes to the Main Stage season. We're also going to be offering a day camp for youth oriented to the arts and performance. We met with someone last week about that. We haven't had a youth program at this theater in all the time I've been here and that's a shame. In an effort to be more accessible to the community and become more of a community center we want to offer that program.