Wednesday, April 26, 2006

INTERVIEW: Richard Baird

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Richard Baird, Artistic Director of Poor Players, prior to his departure to Ashland, Oregon where he will show his stuff at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) and no doubt, make us proud. Richard has been assigned roles in The Winters Tale, Cyrano de Bergerac and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Traveling about the city, making last minute preparations, I chatted in person and via cell and this is what he had to say.

Cuauhtémoc Q. Kish (CQK): You are leaving San Diego and the Poor Players; what will you miss the most?

Richard Baird (RB): My family, and by extension I mean my parents and siblings and all of those fabulous members of the Poor Players.
CK: Your immediate family actually participated in the Poor Players organization, correct?

RB: My mom designed many of the costumes, my brother designed the Website, and my father did the programs.

CQK: What are some of the most memorable moments with Poor Players?

RB: I think I would have to say my participation in Henry IV, Part 1 as well as the many cast parties following the shows like Much Ado About Nothing.

CQK: What’s the difference between directing yourself and being directed by someone else?

RB: I took the role of actor/manager out of necessity. It allowed me to shape and form the characters as I saw them. You have to realize that Poor Players lacked the resources of both time and money. We put most of the shows together with 3-hour rehearsals nightly in a mere four weeks. I am anxious to begin my experience at Ashland as an actor. I want to learn from others and to have someone tell me when to reign in my acting and let me know when it’s too much.

CQK: Is there life for Poor Players without Richard Baird?

RB: I hope so. The Company is planning to produce Hedda Gabler at Westminster Church in 2006. Julie Clemons will contribute as well as Marcus Overton, who will offer assistance as well as direct a piece. And Nick (Kennedy) and I will be advising the Company. I’d personally like to produce Rose Rage (Henry VI compilation) in the future with Poor Players.

CQK: Any regrets?

RB: When you have a company that moves around a lot it’s more difficult to fill the house. It hurt when we lost our contract with the Adams Avenue Studio of the Arts. But even from our first show, Titus Andronicus, we brought them in mostly by word of mouth and our growing professional reputation.

CQK: Tell us something about your new job in Ashland.

RB: Well, it is one of the oldest and largest professional non-profit theatres in the nation (founded in 1935). Their season runs eight and a half months with eleven productions in three theatres. They have a budget of approximately $25 million. Their attendance is in the range of about 360,000. They offer about 60 equity contracts and I’m planning on getting my card through them. It’s said that 80% of the actors remain there an average of eight years.

CQK: Congratulations on getting hired in this Tony Award –winning Shakespearean Festival; you will do well.

[Poor Players was founded in September 2001 with their first production, Titus Andronicus. In the past four plus years they certainly followed their credo: to provide “living resonant narratives” that allow the text to speak.]

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