GANYMEDE ARTS IS TAKING FLIGHT-
An Interview with Artistic Director Jeffrey Johnson
By Joel Markowitz
Ganymede Arts is up and ready to take flight. What will their 2007-2008 season offer local theatergoers? And what’s different since they’ve changes their name from Actors’ Theatre of Washington? Artistic Director Jeffrey Johnson fills us in.
Joel: Why has ATW (Actors’ Theatre of Washington) changed its name to Ganymede Arts?
Jeffrey: It came about in a couple of steps. As you know our staff and Board, for the most part, are all new this past season with a major overhaul happening this past January. Shortly after that, I sat down with the Board and explained what my vision has been for the company. From the get go I saw ATW being more than a theatre company. I have always seen it as an arts company with a strong base in theatre and performance arts. Upon hearing this the board decided that since it was a new beginning that we go with that vision and make the changes necessary to facilitate it. They all felt it was time for it. Around the same time the discussion of the name Actors’ Theatre of Washington and its relevance to our mission and its clarity in explaining it came to the table. It was felt that we should look to something more GLBT related, something that had to do with the mission we follow. If you remember, the name Actors’ Theatre of Washington was made up in 1992 when the company was on a totally different path. Since the path has changed, then so should the name. The two ideas began to meld together and thus it was deiced to make the name change along with the announcement of the expanded mission.
Joel: Why choose the name “Ganymede Arts?”
Joel: Your website states that you are dedicated to the “GLBT experience.” Can you explain what that means to our readers?
It reflects a community.
Joel: Do you feel you have received enough support from the GLBT community in the past, and how do you get those in the community that have not supported you in the past, to come forward and support Ganymede Arts now?
Jeffrey: I feel that our support has constantly been growing over that last four seasons and I feel that we are at the point where we can feel confident in our support by the GLBT community. We were voted “Best Theatre Company” by the readers of the Washington Blade. That says something about community support. It’s something that we do not take for granted though. It requires work, loyalty and a very large amount of dedication that we are happy to give. I believe with Ganymede Arts we will now be able to support the community in many untapped ways. To my knowledge, there isn’t another GLBT company in town that produces and supports all art forms. And since we are going down that road I believe we will make many more friends along the way.
Joel: Why should the non-GBLT community support Ganymede Arts?
Jeffrey: Because with the stories we all tell through theatre, through dance, through music or written word or visual art or comedy…there is something universal about them. It’s honesty and emotion that people relate to. When we produce something, whether the piece already has a GLBT slant inherently to it or we creatively find a way to give it that slant without destroying the initial intent of message, the message itself usually is genderless. The message is usually about love, heartbreak, lust, sympathy or understanding. Something everyone can experience, relate to and identify with.
Joel: By catering to the GBLT community, do you risk alienating the non-GBLT theatre-going community?
Jeffrey: I don’t think so. So far we have had a very good mix in attendance. With the feed back that we get it seems people come to see our shows because of the quality of the production.
Joel: What kind of arts events will you be having this year?
Jeffrey: We will start off the season with a 10 day GLBT Arts Festival at Church Street Theatre, which lies at the heart of the GLBT district. The festival will feature theatre readings, dance, performance art, comedy, written word, vocal and instrumental music all encased within a theatre that has been transformed into an art gallery. After our festival, our art shows will occur on the off-nights of our theatrical productions. These art nights will offer a varied schedule of events in all forms of the arts.
Joel: How many theatrical productions will you be producing and what will they be?
Jeffrey: We will do two theatrical productions in addition to the festival and other offerings. The first will be The Lion in Winter in the late winter/early spring of 2008. Then in August 2008 we will mount our third musical…Sweeney Todd.
Joel: Why did you select these productions?
Jeffrey: They continue to help us define who we are. The shows themselves are on two different ends of the spectrum. The Lion In Winter is a classic play that almost everyone is familiar with. Its writing is pretty damn smart; the characters are historical and epic in nature. The other, Sweeney Todd, just begs for new interpretations and approaches. It’s time for that. So Sweeney Todd will allow us to really show our artistic side – taking the audience someplace they never been with the piece. And hopefully it will be like seeing it for the first time – again!
Joel: Will you be starring in any of the productions?
Joel: Will you appear this year in pants?
Jeffrey: Does it matter…?
Joel: Where will you be performing these events? Will Source Theatre be your home again?
Jeffrey: We have applied to CuDC for our considerations for residency at the Source Theatre when it reopens. The fate of Ganymede Arts having a home at Source rests in CuDC’s hands.
Joel: How can our readers find out more information about Ganymede Arts?
Jeffrey: The best way at this time, since we are in “off-season,’ is to visit our website. If they have more questions our phone number and emails are listed. There are also clips from all of our past productions on the website, so looking at them might give you and idea of the range of productions we have done in the past. Also doing a search of past reviews – Boston Marriage or Les Liaisons Dangereuses for example….Potomac Stages has a great archive of all our reviews…