Spotlight Series: Meet Kristy Edmunds, Executive and Artistic Director of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about you and CAP UCLA?

Kristy Edmonds (Kristy): UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance produces and supports programming that builds a community around the world’s creative artists whose ideas find a home in contemporary theater, dance, music, writing and collaboration. Artists that have achieved a towering legacy in their chosen art forms, alongside those who are well on their way because of their generous and singular vision. At CAP UCLA we leave no stone unturned in assuring that people (in every age, culture and means) have artists in their lives one project at a time.

(SB): What production(s) were you (and/or your company) involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Kristy): After presenting Octavia Butler’s Parable of The Sower by Toshi Reagon, on the now legendary evening of March 7, there were but days before the safer at home order would come in. An additional 13 performances were immediately impacted. Our work began in earnest for postponing (cancelling was a last measure position for us), and important in every discussion around rescheduling was CAP UCLA’s commitment that we would not leave artists, managers and audiences out to dry, as we knew that artists and their creative teams would be in a severe cash flow challenge (one that would move from stressful to imperiling within weeks as more organizations began to cancel). But none of us anticipated the long duration of the marathon this would rapidly evolve into.

In our situation at CAP UCLA, I had an enhanced vantage point because of the leadership of UCLA – they were responsibly addressing a scale of change that was unfathomable and because of the transparency of critical decision-making, I had a slight head start on the crucial reality of public safety measures spreading in every direction imaginable. We had to all focus on the huge contour and the exacting detail concurrently. I remember getting off of a Zoom call and saying to myself: “Kristy Edmunds, this is not a surreal dream this is happening. You have to move NOW, you’ll add to the chaos if you wait a second longer.”

As hard as it was, it ensured that no one was left unaddressed – not my staff, not the audience, our supporters, associated businesses and not the artists. I knew what the scale of impact would be to artists instantly, this is my profession after all. But I didn’t know it would spread to all of us in every allied workforce and in all walks of life. That equally heart-breaking realization would come later (and rapidly).

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the artists and production teams?

(Kristy): With all speed and with emotional intelligence. CAP UCLA one of the first performing arts organizations to suspend our programs, so everyone effected would have a different level of awareness and the impact would be different for everyone. I knew that there would be a shock reaction, or a denial impulse (the show must go on!), and then too the gracious diplomacy of understanding. It would land differently for everyone, and everyone would be affected unevenly. Our imperative was that every artist would be supported, and every ticket holder would be refunded. We were bleeding of course, but we acted on principle and did not stand still in justifiable but acutely problematic suspended animation.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Kristy): Yes, there are plans in place for future dates and all of us are operating from plan A, B, C and D. We have also worked closely with artists to explore what approaches for presenting their works will look like, and we will start the soft launch of the programming for the upcoming season in a few weeks.

Every project is now rescheduled, or being re-developed. Some are being filmed and we will present the work online later. Some projects have jumped to the fall of 2021 to get to more solid ground where it may be less crazed by uncertainty. Others are adjusting their work for new platforms and we are there for that as well.

It’s different for each artist and each art form, and with everything still changing, it’s about generating continuity with far less means. All is considered and thought through after many earnest discussions, and in a full recognition that the future of anyone’s capacity is subject to change. For CAP UCLA this means we have had to create possibilities and innovate for the most immediate future as well as the further flung horizon line.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Kristy): We have this rapidly assembled “newsletter” generated weekly. It’s actually becoming a real touch stone for our audiences locally, nationally and around the world. Once the programming for next season is announced, we will all have a lot to look forward to as well.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghost light on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Kristy): Each of us have assets that are strained now beyond our wildest imagining. It was hard enough before. We do not know how long we can survive in this suspension or what proceeding will look like. But we are an incredible part of the cultural infrastructure of the city and country, and the more we are able to collaborate together, the better off our ecology will be as we work on recovery.


(SB): And with forced theater closures world-wide and long-range performance cancellations, presenting organizations are faced with a myriad of challenges as they navigate artist support with organizational sustainability, and how to plan for an unknown future.

Here is a link to a Conversation with Kristy Edmunds, Executive and Artistic Director, UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, and Lauren Snelling, Senior Director of Alumni Programming, National YoungArts Foundation, in which Kristy offers an honest conversation addressing the harsh realities associated with a return to public gatherings and ongoing postponements and cancellations, as well as a hopeful perspective on alternatives for artists operating in a virtual landscape and her motivation to activate recovery for the preservation of America’s cultural ecosystem.

Websites and social media:

cap.ucla.edu

facebook.com/CAPatUCLA

instagram.com/cap_ucla

twitter.com/CAP_UCLA

twitter.com/KristyEdmunds

Photo captions:

Kristy Edmunds, Executive & Artistic Director of Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA - Photo by Reed Hutchinson

Production photos of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and “Parable” by Phinn Sriployrung

"Love Letters Straight From Your Heart" promotional photo provided by CAP UCLA


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



EVENTS OPENING THIS WEEK

CIRQUE MECHANICS: 42FT – A MENAGERIE OF MECHANICAL MARVELS@ Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University

October 16, 2018 7:30 pm

Thrills, laughs and excitement are on full display as Cirque Mechanics' 42FT – A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels transports audiences back to the timeless thrills of the big top circus ring. Deriving its name ...read more


CHEMO BARBIE – MY LADY BITS JOURNEY THROUGH BREAST CANCER @ Santa Monica Playhouse, The Other Space

October 16, 2018 8:00 pm

“Uniquely funny” exclaims LA Beat. In 2016, Heather Keller, a healthy young vegan runner, was diagnosed with breast cancer and her life changed forever. This is her heartbreaking, inspiring and ultimately uplifting story. Winner ...read more


THE BINGE FRINGE FESTIVAL OF FREE THEATRE (BFF) @ Santa Monica Playhouse The Main Stage

October 16, 2018 8:00 pm

Welcome to the Binge! Your new BFF! Two weeks of free theatre October 15 to 28, 2018 with encore performances through November 11! Santa Monica Group Theatre presents The BFF aka The BINGE Fringe Festival of Free ...read more


A SPLINTERED SOUL @ International City Theatre

October 17, 2018 8:00 pm

A gripping drama about war refugees haunted by the death of their loved ones — and by memories of the things they had to do to survive. It's 1947 in San Francisco, home to ...read more


COST OF LIVING @ The Fountain Theatre

October 17, 2018 8:00 pm

In this gripping, unexpectedly funny Pulitzer Prize-winning play, John is a rich, quick-witted grad student who has cerebral palsy. Ani is an hilariously foul-mouthed quadriplegic. The people who help them, Jess and Eddie, have ...read more


DEAR EVAN HANSEN @ Ahmanson Theatre

October 18, 2018 2:00 pm

A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed he could have. Evan Hansen is about to get the one ...read more


DOWNTOWN LA FILM FESTIVAL @ Regal L.A. LIVE Cinemas

October 18, 2018 7:00 pm

Established in 2008, the festival has screened more 1,000 films, held more 200 events and partnered with more than 75 other profit and nonprofit business in DTLA. Our programming reflects downtown L.A.'s vibrant new ...read more


SHORT+SWEET HOLLYWOOD @ Marilyn Monroe Theatre

October 18, 2018 7:00 pm

Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. People's Choice Semifinalist short plays (audience favorites): Surprise.  Written by Mark Harvey Levine.  Directed by Luis Goyanes. Cast. Loren Lillian, Nathan Ondracek & Ryan Walsh. Peter is a psychic, but ...read more


RADIANT VERMIN@ Odyssey Theatre

October 18, 2018 8:00 pm

The Los Angeles premiere of an outrageous comedy with a killer heart by acclaimed British playwright and provocateur Philip Ridley. In this viciously funny satire flecked with horror, Ollie and Jill want to tell ...read more


WAITING FOR LEFTY BY CLIFFORD ODETS@ The Complex

October 18, 2018 8:00 pm

Expertly written in 1935 by Clifford Odets, Waiting for Lefty exposes a downtrodden group of Laborers fighting back against the backdrop of The Great Depression. Drama of tough times and tougher people desperate for ...read more


THE LITTLE FOXES@ Antaeus Theatre at Kiki David Gindler Performing Arts Center

October 18, 2018 8:00 pm

Lillian Hellman's provocative masterpiece continues to exert a captivating hold on American culture. Set in the Deep South of 1900, where women have scant options and men seem to hold all the power, Regina ...read more


WE BANJO 3 @ Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University

October 19, 2018 8:00 pm

Pioneers of the innovative musical fusion style dubbed “Celtgrass,” We Banjo 3's unique blend of the traditional Irish and authentic Americana genres has made them one of the music world's most celebrated ensembles. With ...read more


THE TRIAL OF LIZZIE BORDEN @ Woodbury University Library

October 19, 2018 8:00 pm

"Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother 40 whacks...." It was the crime and trial and of the century! Two people savagely hatched to death in their own home in a quiet town ...read more


FIGHTING SHADOWS @ The Rosenthal Theater at Inner-City Arts

October 19, 2018 8:00 pm

FIGHTING SHADOWS is the true story of one man's search for love in a world meant for breaking, not bending. A brutal, truthful account of Emmy-nominated actor and star of FX's Mayans M.C. Richard ...read more


THE LITTLE FOXES@ UCLA James Bridges Theatre

October 19, 2018 8:00 pm

Lillian Hellman's modern classic about a wealthy Southern family and the greed that tears them apart. Mamie Gummer (HBO's True Detective, CW's Emily Owens, M.D) stars as Regina Giddens, whose dying husband (Jared Harris, ...read more


EDGAR ALLAN POE@ Generation DCD Studio

October 19, 2018 8:30 pm

Come celebrate All Hallows' Eve at Force of Nature Productions with a dark evening of tales and mystery from the Master of the Macabre himself, Edgar Allan Poe. Poe returns to us from the ...read more


SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS @ Theatre West

October 20, 2018 1:00 pm

Storybook Theatre's fun filled version of this famous story has lots of singing, dancing, audience participation, and a funny witch with a handsome prince. The children in the audience become the seven dwarfs who ...read more


FROM WHARF RATS TO LORDS OF THE DOCKS @ Theatre West

October 20, 2018 8:00 pm

Actor-playwright Ian Ruskin portrays the legendary union organizer Harry Bridges, capturing his passion, struggles and wicked sense of humor in this one-man play. This vivid dramatization brings to life the San Francisco labor leader ...read more


STEAMBATH @ Odyssey Theatre

October 20, 2018 8:00 pm

What if God turned out to be a Puerto Rican steam bath attendant, assisted by a butler named Gottlieb? Renowned stand up comedian and actor Paul Rodriguez stars in a revival of Steambath, the ...read more


QUACK @ Kirk Douglas Theatre

October 23, 2018 8:00 pm

Millions of women across America rely on Dr. Irving Baer and his daytime talk show to help them lose weight, manifest their destinies, and take their health into their own hands. Then, a take-down ...read more