After 35 years of promoting and advancing the Bay Area theatre and dance community, we've touched a lot of people—and a lot of people have touched us. Today’s honoree: Kurt Landisman, founder of the Landisman Fellowship Program.
Who are you? Can you give a little bit of background about how you got to where you are today?
My name is Kurt Landisman, and I'm a theatrical lighting designer. I've been designing in the Bay Area for a couple of decades now, and frankly it's the only job I've ever had. I grew up in Berkeley, and was exposed to theatre at a very young age. My mom and dad were community theatre actors, and some of my earliest memories are of either attending performances, or watching from backstage. During my high school and college years I developed a compelling interest in theatre and lighting design that has propelled me forwards even until today. Through valued collaborations with theatres, directors, and designers over the years, I've been fortunate to design an incredible variety of productions, from Sam Shepard in 99 seats to Verdi in 3500. However, when I'm not sitting in a dark theatre all weekend making light cues, I can be found on a mountain path somewhere, pondering the beauty of natural light.
What is your history with Theatre Bay Area?
I felt when establishing the Landisman Fellowship Program that Theatre Bay Area was the only place locally that could administer and organize a program that would seek out new and unknown artists who had promise. It was a way to not only help the individual, but also to help the producing organization in creating a financial partnership between the two. Fees for artists at small venues can be very low, especially given the high costs of living here in the Bay Area. The program seeks to provide both a living wage for the artist and a valuable creative service for the producing organization.
You are being honored particularly for founding the Eric Landisman Fellowship. Please tell us about that program's association with Theatre Bay Area.
Eric was my brother who lost his life at the hands of a drunk driver. He was an accomplished set and props designer. At the time of his death he was the properties master for ACT here in San Francisco. The seed monies for the fellowship came from his life insurance. Both my brother and I were very fortunate in that we had supportive parents that encouraged us, and helped us get started in theatrical design. The aim of the fellowship has been to provide the same support and encouragement for emerging designers and technicians that my folks provided for my brother and myself. Throughout the last ten years that the fellowship has been in place at Theatre Bay Area, I've encouraged all of my colleagues to give generously towards keeping this valuable program alive. The program has helped approximately twenty designers and technicians in the past ten years, and many have gone on to valuable professional careers. It is my hope that this program can continue into the future.
Why is theatre important? What do you think your role is keeping it a vital part of civilization? How does Theatre Bay Area help?
I've made my living designing for Bay Area theatres for the last 30 years, so I have a vested interest in a creative and robust atmosphere here in the Bay Area. The Bay Area has always been a melting pot where theatre artists were encouraged and supported in creating new and vital work that in many ways has driven the national theatrical community. Theatre Bay Area has served the community well over that time as a place to nurture not only established institutions but also new and emerging artists.
Click here for more information about the 35 Years, 35 Faces campaign.
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Click here to RSVP for the 35 Years, 35 Faces Celebration on April 30, 2012.