A new era has begun for the downtown Jamestown arts scene, and Kathleen Eads is poised to lead the charge into the future.
Just months after a merger between the Arts Council for Chautauqua County and the Reg Lenna Civic Center, the newly formed Reg Lenna Center for the Arts has taken its next step by appointing a new executive director.
Eads officially began her work with the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts on Jan. 6, becoming the first executive director for the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, as well as the first executive director for the Reg Lenna Civic Center since David Schein’s 2009 departure.
Eads, whose repertoire includes more than 25 years of experience in theater and performing arts, most recently served as managing director for the Antaeus Company in Los Angeles.
According to Eads, the role of an arts center has always been to serve the community, then to augment and enhance where possible. Calling it “everybody’s place,” she’d prefer to see the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts become a venue that is highly utilized by the community, both in attendance and production.
“I think the potential is endless – that’s one of the things that excited me about the job,” Eads said. “Given the exceptional support of the community and the local civic leaders, you can’t ask for anything better. The board of directors have obviously been through a lot, and they’ve worked very hard – they are an exceptional bunch of people. I think it’s really that the sky’s the limit. … But, going forward it’s really important to me that we don’t dwell too much in the past – we’ll learn from it and be able to expand and fulfill the dream of the arts in the area for everybody, just under a new name.”
NEW AND IMPROVED
Because Eads has a presenting background, she has a love for all disciplines related to arts and entertainment, she said. Therefore, the programming to come to the stage of the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts will represent variety.
Eads wants the Reg to host more theater, a little dance, classical music to augment current community programming, a family series to function as an afterschool matinee and a family night out, as well as unique, touring acts such as Golden Dragon Acrobats’ Cirque Ziva.
Eads is currently in New York City for the 57th annual global performing arts conference, APAP, to see what type of programming is available for 2014. She said she hopes to bring back some programming that has never before been seen to the stage of the Reg Lenna.
A fourth-generation California native, Eads is a graduate of San Jose State University who cut her teeth by working at various educational institutions before getting her first presenting position at UC Davis.
After leaving UC Davis, Eads became the director of marketing, and eventually the managing director, for the Sacramento Theatre Company.
“I grew up primarily in northern California, and for years and years fought the urge to go to Los Angeles before moving there in 2000,” Eads said.
While she was in Los Angeles, Eads found herself working at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood as the director of ticketing services. Meanwhile, Ron Orbach, who would later become Eads’ husband, was cast for the original “The Producers,” prompting her first move to the East Coast.
“That’s how I ended up in Manhattan the first time,” Eads said. “Ron went out of town for the Chicago tryout, and blew out his knee – they fired him before he got to Broadway. But, in the meantime I had gotten a job as senior marketing manager at Disney Theatrical. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was my show, and I kind of started the Disney on Broadway moniker and all the advertising that went along with it.”
After Eads’ first foray into the East, she and Orbach headed back out West for a 10-week jaunt in California to plan and host their wedding. But, on their way out West, Orbach received word that he had been cast for another Broadway show, Michael Crawford’s “Dance of the Vampires,” and the newlyweds soon moved back to New York City.
Eads returned to the East to do what she does best – land another job. She soon took on a major project as general manager and director of Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center.
Eads attributes part of the success of the program to her ability to draw in celebrities for various workshops, such as Robert De Niro, which garnered significant interest of the school’s students. But, also to the fact that the program was in its creation stage, allowing Eads to develop it from the ground up.
“It was part of the new vertical campus that they had just completed, so when I arrived there was literally nothing but dust everywhere,” Eads said. “It was a really great experience starting there as general manager and eventually leaving as the director. I was able to do so many things with that center because it was brand new and there was no precedent. By working with the faculty and staff, we were able to create a great synergy between the campus community and what was happening in the performing arts center. By the time I left we had close to 20 percent student attendance rate, which is unheard of for those types of performing arts centers – I was really proud of that.”
Meanwhile, Orbach’s itch to return to acting began to develop once again, and the couple headed back to the Golden State. According to Eads, Los Angeles was a little hard on her career since television and film reign supreme on the west end of the country. However, she was able to get work running a classical theater company that was small, but heralded as one of the best.
“My membership at Antaeus Company was very unique in that it was skewed older, and they were well established television and film actors whose roots were in classical theater,” Eads said. “For example, Greg Itzin, Harry Groener, Dakin Matthews, Armin Shimerman and Kitty Swink were company members. I came in at a very tough time for that company, and when I left we were in the black – I’m very happy about that.”
Yet, the constant call of the east never left Eads, who longed for the variety and challenges associated with presenting. So, she began looking for work, and that’s when she saw the advertisement for The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts.
“I’ve always loved New York the state, I knew I wanted to be back east and I knew I wanted to get back into presenting and into a center,” Eads said. “I saw the advertisement, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh – that’s exactly what I want to be doing.’ I also like coming into situations that maybe aren’t easy – I like to have a challenge. So when I saw that there had been a recent merger, and two different types of organizations were coming together – I thought it was an ideal opportunity.”
Eads visited in October, and was completely impressed with not only the Reg Lenna facility, but also found herself astounded by the people she met.
“I don’t think in my life have I ever been around so many warm, generous people who love what they do – that’s the whole reason I’ve been in the arts,” Eads said.
It may be some time before area residents begin to see the difference associated with Eads’ influence on the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, but in the meantime, the community will still have the opportunity to support programming that is currently already in the works.
Tickets are on sale for several events, including: a final film series that will feature celluloid film before transitioning to digital projection, which runs through Feb. 8; American piano sensation, Jim Brickman, will perform on Feb. 7; Cirque Ziva is set for Feb. 27; Irish Tenor, Ronan Tynan will perform on March 6; and the 3rd On 3rd Gallery will feature art shows such as “Women Create” in March and “Colonize” in April.
For more information on the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, call 664-2465 or visit www.reglenna.com.