Tim Bond, the new artistic director of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, was recently asked if he would be building the Tony Award-winning company anew, or building off what already existed.
"If you'd asked me that pre-COVID, right after I got the position (announced in November), I would have said, 'Building off it,'" he said.
"That's still true, but like all theaters, as we work our way through this COVID pause and are getting ready to come back to in-person performances … It's complicated, and exciting. The foundation of this company is so strong. And its audience base and reputation and family of artists and community members will really help us as we're kind of building it new, from what we have already been."
The company has already been busy with a catalog of online performances and fundraisers.
"We have TheatreWorks from Home; we streamed the video of 'They Promised Her the Moon' (in March and April); worked a deal with Paul Gordon's 'Pride and Prejudice' -- tens of thousands of people saw that, and Amazon Prime picked it up," Bond said. "We have interviews with various people, NewWorks videos from Giovanna Sardelli, and have had two Hershey Felder shows. We did 'Shakespeare in Vegas' that Giovanna directed."
TheatreWorks' board and Executive Director Phil Santora and his staff have been finding many ways to keep money flowing into the company's accounts, ranging from online parties to say goodbye to retired founder Robert Kelley to a James Bond-themed party coming up on Oct. 17 to welcome Bond to the company.
"From TheatreWorks with Love: A Party with Bond... Tim Bond" is essentially a gala without having to spring for a hall. The company is suggesting "micro-parties that you can host for up to six people right in your own home! Enjoy J. Lohr wines, delicious treats, and fun décor that we'll deliver directly to your door; bid on unique auction items and experiences online; and livestream exclusive theatrical entertainment featuring local and national artists," according to TheatreWorks' website.
Tickets range from the Pierce Brosnan level ($250) to the Sean Connery level ($3,500). Spend more, get more, including at higher levels, a life-size cardboard cutout of Tim Bond himself (to pose with in photos), a catered dinner, Grey Goose vodka, online interaction with actors and other bits.
Artistic Director Emeritus Kelley, who founded TheatreWorks in 1969 and ran it for 50 years, has been meeting with Bond weekly to brainstorm about what TheatreWorks is, and can be, during the COVID restriction, and afterward.
Kelley "is just a really great guy, and a really smart guy, and a very generous guy," Bond said during a recent Zoom interview. "This is the third time I've taken the reins at a theater, and I've never had the generosity and the welcome, and felt the support that I feel from Robert Kelley. I deeply appreciate it. … I feel honored to be following in his footsteps."
Though he's the new guy at TheatreWorks, Bond's been directing shows and administering theater companies for more than 30 years.
He began his career in 1984 with Seattle Group Theatre, where he directed more than 20 shows, and served from 1991 to 1996 as artistic director and curated the company's MultiCultural Playwrights Festival. From 1996 to 2007, Bond was an associate artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
He then became producing artistic director at Syracuse Stage and the Syracuse University Department of Drama, from 2007 to 2016. There, he directed 18 plays, and produced more than 100 plays and musicals.
TheatreWorks Board of Trustees Chair Roy Johnson said, in a press release, "With his stellar national career at major regional theaters as both an award-winning director and administrator, his tireless promotion of new works, and his extensive commitment to diversity and inclusion, Tim brings an extraordinary blend of experience and expertise. We are confident he will honor the profound legacy of Robert Kelley."
Before taking the TheatreWorks job, Bond was a full professor at University of Washington's School of Drama, the last two years as head of the Professional Actor Training Program.
He does not expect to return to teaching at the University of Washington while working at TheatreWorks.
"This is a full-time-and-a-half job," Bond said. "Kelley is fond of saying, 'What part of full-time did you not understand?' This is an all-consuming situation."
But, he added, he might, sometime, pick up a class locally. "I love to teach," he said. He and his wife, with whom he has two grown children, are currently living in Belmont.
As for future productions, Bond noted that "all theaters will be coming back a little different from what they were before COVID. And we don't know what that means yet ... I'm here to guide us through it, along with Phil Santora, a great board and a terrific staff."
* "Hershey Felder as "Monsieur Chopin," directed by Joel Zwick, March 17-April 21. Felder's shows are popular, and make more money for TheatreWorks than any others. If we're lucky, he will add one of his sing-alongs to his visit. Quarantined in Florence, Italy, he has done three livestreamed shows from his home so far, with some of the proceeds going to TheatreWorks.
*"Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years," by Emily Mann, directed by Tim Bond, June 2-27. "Their 'Say' is an irresistible celebration of our potential," according to a press release.
* "Nan and the Lower Body," by Jessica Dickey, directed by TheatreWorks New Works director Giovanna Sardelli, July 14-Aug. 8. This world premiere about a lab assistant has mysteries to unravel and choices to make was an audience favorite at the New Works Festival.
* August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean," directed by Bond, Oct. 6-31. "His plays are lyrical," said Bond. "They chronicle the 20th century, but they are not history plays. … They are plays for everyone, not just a Black audience. He was one of the most amazing craftspeople I've ever known. He was a genius."
* "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play," adapted by Joe Landry, directed by Sardelli, Dec. 1-26. TheatreWorks always offers something family oriented during the holidays. The show "is on tonight at a snowbound 1940s radio station, with every memorable character, wacky sound effect, and the heartwarming conclusion of the iconic film recreated live before your eyesyour ears -- and eyes."
* "Sense and Sensibility," by Paul Gordon, directed by Robert Kelley, Jan. 19-Feb. 13. Regional premiere. "A glorious musical of Jane Austen's beloved romantic masterpiece. Overflowing with intrigue and humor." Gordon and Kelley have enjoyed a rare and productive partnership.
* "Queen," by Madhuri Shekar, directed by Jeffrey Lo, March 2-27. Lo is TheatreWorks' director of community partnerships, and casting director. This "high-stakes environmental drama" is about the collapse of bee colonies worldwide, and careers and marriage at risk.
* "Ragtime," book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, from the novel by E. L. Doctorow, directed by Kelley, April 13-May 8. Vaudeville, baseball, labor rallies, racial unrest woven in a tapestry including a Jewish immigrant, a Harlem pianist and a conflicted upper-class wife.
Freelance writer John Orr can be emailed at [email protected]