Bill Brochtrup Reflects on Antaeus' Contributions to LA Theatre & Revitalized Objectives in New Glendale Digs


Gil Kaan

Writer, Registered Critic


The Antaeus Theatre Company has been a vital artistic component of the NoHo Theatre District for quite a few years now. Not only does Antaeus put on solidly-produced shows, they also provide theatre training for budding actors with community outreach to high schoolers and seniors. Now on the eve of staging an open house of their new facilities in Glendale the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, Better-Lemons grabbed the chance to talk to Antaeus Co-Artistic Director Bill Brochtrup.
Thank you for taking time out for this interview, Bill.
Antaeus has been at its various North Hollywood addresses for over 20 years. How did your new space in Glendale come about?
Honestly, there were so many programs going on at Antaeus that our old space in NoHo simply wasn't big enough to contain them all.  There were classes, readings, rehearsals in every nook and cranny.  So we began looking for a place that would be big enough to fit them all in.  We couldn't just rent a theatre because we needed space for the Academy, offices, library, etc.  There are a lot of zoning restrictions, parking restrictions, all kinds of things I had no idea about.  But the City of Glendale has been amazing — they helped us identify a building right in the downtown Art and Entertainment District that could be built out to fit all of our needs.  And throughout this time we had been raising money, first internally from our members and Board, and then externally in our Play On! Capital Campaign.  We worked with a wonderful architect who found a way to fit all of our wishes into what will be the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center.  This has been a multi-year journey!
Space-wise, do you have specific plan to take advantage of your increased square footage?
Our new home has been very carefully designed to include everything we needed to allow Antaeus to grow.  But the space is still tight, not an inch has been wasted.  We'll have two performance spaces, a lobby with an art gallery, library, comfortable green room and dressing room for our actors — and lots of bathrooms!
You are currently one of three rotating co-artistic directors (w/Rob Nagle and John Sloan). How did this leadership model evolve and how does it work exactly? Do you divvy up responsibilities?
We work as a triumvirate, making decisions together.  It's an unusual model, but it works surprisingly well.  We've built up a great deal of trust in one another, and we share a vision for Antaeus' future.  We like to have our hands in every aspect of the company. So while we each have varying areas that are of particular interest to us, it really is a group effort.  Which is emblematic of the way the company works.  We've been elected to represent the members' wishes.  It can be a little unwieldy trying to get all three of us to sign off on something, especially if one or two of us are out working as actors — which all three of us are — but as I said, there is a great deal of trust there, and a shared taste and outlook.  Rob is on his way to New York to open CHURCH & STATE Off-Broadway for an open-ended run.  Luckily, we have his email address and phone number.  He can't get away that easily!
Your inaugural season in your new digs opens with CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, followed by AS YOU LIKE IT and NATIVE SON. Does the recent Equity ruling requiring minimum wage to all small LA-based theatre companies affect your season in any way?
We are living in a challenging time for theatre everywhere, and for theaters in LA in particular.  Things are changing and we must to learn to adapt.  Antaeus will be operating under the AEA Membership Rule which currently allows membership companies to work with Equity actors without the benefit of contract.  Our membership is virtually one hundred percent Equity members, so naturally we will continue to follow all union rules regarding hours, breaks, working conditions, etc. — just as we always have.  We are an ensemble of Equity actors volunteering together to create the kind of work we want to create.  That hasn't changed.
I have seen many of your fellow Antaeus company members in Equity-waiver shows in various Los Angeles theatres, They and you, as Equity members, now can't do another small theatre show without getting paid, like you, yourself so wondrously did at the Fountain Theatre in THE NORMAL HEART in 2013, right?
It's a confusing time and every intimate theater in LA is facing tough choices about how they will move forward.  Our members can generally be seen on stages all over Southern California and beyond, from Broadway to South Coast Rep to the Taper to every 99-seat theater in town.  Some of my very proudest moments onstage have occurred in intimate theatre, like the Fountain's THE NORMAL HEART.  It will be a sad day indeed if we're shut out of those places — and it certainly will happen at some venues.
What would be the alternative to doing small theatre work be other than within Antaeus?
You mean like hiking or yoga?  I guess if I couldn't work in the theatre, I'd have more time for those.
Antaeus is well-known for its partner-casting in all its productions. Who would you credit this Antaeus practice to?
Partner casting has been with Antaeus from the very beginning.  It began as a way to answer the logistical problem of actors in LA wanting to work onstage but needing to make money in film and television — where they can be called away to Vancouver at a moment's notice.  This practice allowed actors to leave a production for a day or a week or even more without scuttling the show, since there was another actor just as rehearsed as you, sharing the role.  But we found that there are additional artistic benefits to working this way — if you can operate without ego, you find that partnering on a role allows you to find and explore many choices that likely wouldn't have occurred to you on your own.  It can forge deep bonds between partners who've created the work together.  I could go on and on about it, but that's for a different interview!
How does a new-to-Los Angeles actor or writer get involved with Antaeus?
It can be a little tricky getting involved at Antaeus quite honestly, as we try to cast our shows from within the ensemble.  Nevertheless, we often need to use guest artists when company members aren't available.  We find these guests from a variety of sources — from our Academy classes, from recommendations, from actors we've seen in other venues (between the three of us, we see a lot of shows).  We're pretty approachable — come to one of the shows and say, "Hello."
When did you, Bill Brochtrup, initially become involved with Antaeus? Was it after I saw you in Black Dahlia's SECRETS OF THE TRADE in 2008?
I met former Antaeus Artistic Director Jeanie Hackett when I was working on NYPD Blue.  She suggested I get involved with Antaeus and invited me to some workshops and then I was cast in PERA PALAS, a co-production with the Theatre @Boston Court in 2005. I joined the company right after that.
What are your acting plans regarding Antaeus' inaugural season?
Ha!  I begged director Cameron Watson to let me be one of the no-neck monsters in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, but to no avail.  But not to worry, there's plenty for me to do at Antaeus behind the scenes as we move in and get situated this year.
What are your goals you'd like to accomplish with Antaeus?
I would love to see Antaeus continue to grow and thrive in every sense.  I want to grow our audiences and donor base, nurture our ensemble, establish deep roots in the Glendale community, strengthen our commitment to inclusivity and Arts Education. Make great theatre.  And I'd like to do it without the fret and worry that is my normal demeanor!
What are you personal goals?
I'm very lucky to have a career as an actor which has allowed me to work in films, television, and on stage.  I'd like to keep that going.  Working as Co-Artistic Director at Antaeus has been an impactful personal journey for me.  Taking on leadership responsibilities has been eye-opening.  Making decisions that affect people's artistic lives is both daunting and highly rewarding.
Any roles you'd love to tackle?
I'm not one of those actors who has a long wish list starting with “Hamlet” and “Lear.”  I'm always surprised by the parts I end up getting and then by how much I end up falling in love with them.  When we did CLOUD 9 last season I didn't plan on playing “Betty/Edward,” but now it's one of my favorite roles ever.  And I have a recurring role on TNT's Major Crimes as savvy police psychologist, “Dr. Joe,” which I just adore.  He's awesome.
Anything you'd like to add regarding Antaeus?
I'd like to invite everyone to come to Glendale to join us for Open Stages, a 4-day celebration of the opening of Antaeus' new home at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center (March 2 thru 5).  There'll be tours, open houses, classes, a high school monologue competition, improv, music.  It's for the community, it's all free and everyone is welcome.  Come get to know us.
Thank you again for doing this, Bill.
For further info on Antaeus Theatre Company's Open Stages, as well as, and tickets and scheduling for their inaugural season in their new Glendale space, log onto www.Antaeus.org

Gil Kaan, a former Managing Editor of the now-defunct Genre magazine, has had the privilege of photographing and interviewing some major divas in his career, including Ann-Margret, Diana Ross, Faye Dunaway, Carol Channing, Shirley MacLaine, Catherine Deneuve, Liza Minnelli, Sandra Bernhard, Anna Nicole Smith, Margaret Cho, and three Catwomen—Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether and Julie Newmar. He had the fortuitous opportunity to conduct Lily Tomlin’s coming out interview. Gil has since reviewed movies and theatre for a number of local and national outlets.
A photo montage of Gil’s Halloween Carnavale photos through the last decade was recently included in the WeHo@ 25 juried exhibition.