Published in KPBS On Air Magazine January 1992

They haven’t lost the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle, but they’ve lost some of the Kit.   After twelve years as co-founder, managing director and producing director of the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company, Kit Goldman has stepped down — though not away. She announced in October that she would become a member of the board of trustees and would still be part of the theater’s artistic decision-making, but she would be pursuing independent, for-profit ventures.

This leaves the theater with a dynamic restructuring plan and a continuing financial burden (an $800,000 debt, down from $1.1 million). But everyone is highly optimistic.

“”I think the theater will change pretty much artistically,” says managing director Steve Bevans, who came on board in 1990, shortly after co-founders Will Simpson (artistic director) and Robert Earl (resident set designer) left the theater under less than cordial terms. “”It’ll be better for the theater.   But I’m not letting Kit get away.”

Goldman (and Bevans) will sit on the theater’s new artistic round-table, six volunteer consulting artistic directors representing San Diego ‘s multicultural community. They will help to establish a new identity for the theater, proposing shows they will then be hired to direct. One of these consultants is Will Roberson, director of “”The Heidi Chronicles,” which opens at the 250-seat Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre on January 14.

Of the roundtable, Roberson says, “I’m always hesitant about leadership by committee. But if Steve (Bevans) runs the theater like a movie studio, identifying different people with different projects, it’ll be fine. The nice thing is that everyone’s very open to different ideas at this point.”

Roberson has no ambivalence about the play he was hired to direct (he scored a winner at the Gaslamp last year with “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”). “She’s really emerging as one of the most important playwrights we have,” he says of Pulitzer Prize-winner Wendy Wasserstein. “And this is the best thing she’s done.   It’s a splendid play, terribly intelligent, very ambitious and very funny. It covers 30 years of things we all went through (as baby boomers), what we had to give up.

“It’s political without being strident, moving without being a tear-jerker.   It says a lot about the women’s movement and the gay movement. It’s very close to Wasserstein’s own life, and her relationship with (playwright) Chris Durang. It’s so personal, but not preachy. People leave the theater and just want to talk about it.”

Roberson has assembled an impressive cast: the Globe’s highly talented Lynne Griffin is Heidi, Bill Anton (who was wonderful in “Frankie and Johnny”) plays her straight friend Scoop and Steve Gunderson (of “Suds”) her gay friend Peter.   Multiple roles are portrayed by Shana Wride, Jeanne Stawiarski, Frank DiPalermo and Judy Milstein.

Milstein, former director of the Underground at the Lyceum, will soon play an on-going role at the Gaslamp, as coordinator of the new cabaret being formed from the GQTC’s smaller, 90-seat theater. Next-door neighbor Cafe Sevilla will provide food and drinks; Milstein and cohorts (probably including Goldman) will provide entertainment, in the form of a comedy ensemble performing satirical sketches akin to those of Second City and Saturday Night Live.   The 100-120 seat venue is set to open in March.

Meanwhile, the Hahn Theatre’s new season will run September-May, with rentals coming in during the summer. Bevans feels that the company’s financial status is improving. Last season, subscriptions were down (from 2700 to 1200) but that may still be backlash from the 1990 suspension of operations.  

“In another two years,” he predicts, “the debt will really be at a manageable level, about $200,000.” Bevans helped to decrease the debt by 20% in the third quarter of last year. The theater received several grants and a $100,000 gift from the developers of the nearby twin-tower condo complex, One Harbor Drive .   As part of an innovative collaboration, the Gaslamp will, in return, help to encourage downtown living by presenting some “lifestyle events” and hosting new residents at the theater.

Other creative fundraising projects include a benefit performance by Steve Allen (January 20) and a Live Auction of upscale trips and services (February 29) co-chaired by Gene Luth and Kit Goldman. At the same time, Goldman’s moving full-speed ahead with her own company, Creative Entertainment Concepts, which produces custom entertainment for businesses, conferences, etc. “Don’t worry,” she says. “I’m not planning to open another theater or become an independent producer of legitimate plays. But I’m a producer and entrepreneur at heart. And I will be out preneuring.”

She feels a bit of separation anxiety at stepping down from the theater.   “I’m sort of like a (young) grandmother. I can still give the baby lots of love. But when it misbehaves, I can turn it back over to someone else. I want to stay involved, but I don’t want to be the kind of grandma who pops in unexpectedly. I’m thrilled to be able to pass the torch to Steve (Bevans). His style is business-like, but he has vision, and a great deal of feeling and passion for the art.”

Right now, Bevan’s vision is focused on the stage as well as on the bottom line.   “I’m looking forward to “Heidi” breaking all Gaslamp records,” he says, holding aloft the torch of high-energy and optimism that Goldman surely passed along.

©1992 Patté Productions Inc.