NACL season of change
Bloom and grow
I don’t care for change. Be it personal or global, the very notion makes me squirm. As a result, whenever I hear of changes afoot, I tend to avoid the subject altogether. For months people have been asking me what I might know about the rumored changes taking place at the NACL Theatre in Highland Lake, NY and for a while, I hid my head in the sand, hoping against hope that the “status quo” would remain intact.
“Sorry Jonathan, but it’s true,” said co-founder and artistic director Tannis Kowalchuk when I called to inquire. Suggesting that we get together with her counterpart, Brad Krumholz, in order that I might better understand, both parties agreed to sit down with me and set the record straight.
“I know there’s been some confusion,” Tannis said, “but it is true that I am stepping down as artistic director of the NACL Theatre with gratitude and confidence. I am forever grateful for the moral, spiritual and financial support of hundreds of people around me. And now,” she said, beaming at her NACL partner of 20 years, “I support Brad and the company [as they] carry on a creative exploration that is generous, brave and artistically adventurous. I can’t wait to see what Brad—aka ‘Dr. Theatre’—is going to do!”
“Don’t forget that from its inception in 1997, until I began to pursue my Ph.D. in 2008, we did everything together here at the NACL,” Krumholz interjected. “And I have always been hands on, whether I was here, or in New York City. Now that I’ve completed the nine year-long journey to acquire my doctorate, I finally have the freedom to further explore my creative expression with the company, while simultaneously paying rigorous attention to the future financial well-being of the NACL.” When I mentioned my fear of change, both Brad and Tannis encouraged me to embrace it head on.
“Change is a part of life,” Krumholz chided, “but remember that in order to challenge us and thrive, theatre should always be morphing and evolving.”
“And if it isn’t,” Tannis added, “it probably isn’t worth doing!”
Wanting to know more about the direction Kowalchuk’s life is taking, I asked her to share some thoughts on the next leg of her personal journey.
“I don’t know that I consciously planned this route, but the new farm is huge, and an enormous undertaking for the entire family. And I saw how well they [NACL] were doing without me!” she said, of the sabbatical she took for several months, which gave her fresh perspective.
Having taken on being in charge of flower production at Willow Wisp Organic Farm, which she and husband Greg Swartz have grown into a major concern, Kowalchuk felt a need to restructure her goals. “Family first, and theatre, of course,” she said. “The farm is incredibly important, along with my commitment to community... I can’t physically be in two places at once. The process can be likened to the garden that I tend.” We talked about the lifespan of a flower, and how it can be compared to the creative life. The seed, which becomes the plant, which in turn grows, blooms and begins the process anew, made sense to me, and Krumholz joined in with his own analogy.
“When we create work that is alive,” he said, “it can’t help but drive change. Otherwise, it would simply wither and die. I think Tannis’s decision to leave NACL is an act of great courage on her part. When a person works for so long on one project, the tendency is to be defined by that… and in order to stay artistically, spiritually and biologically healthy, one needs to be able to change.
“The timing of this transition is also perfect. Now that I have my doctorate and teaching position at Hunter College, I’m poised to begin working artistically again and excited to support Tannis’s desire to move on. I liken it to the process of cell mitosis,” he said, “when an organism splits off into two new entirely whole organisms. Each came from the first, but each is different and neither can be said to be the same as the original.”
Enthusiastic about their new endeavors, Krumholz reminded me that the new NACL season, titled “Kaleidoscope,” begins this weekend with “Kareem Lucas: Black is Beautiful, but it Ain’t Aways Pretty,” followed by what promises to be unique, inventive and thought-provoking series of productions curated by Krumholz for the “season of transition,” that he and Kowalchuk envision.
Brad added that the NACL will continue to take theatre to the streets, where under the artistic direction of Kowalchuk, the troupe will present “outdoor spectacle performances at community parades, fairs and festivals throughout the region.”