Today we’d like to introduce you to Pesha Rudnick.
Pesha, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a daydreamer, I have always been in love with stories.
After college, I move back to my hometown of Venice, Ca to work in the arts. I know I wanted to be involved in performance on some level, so I began acting in local plays and on the small screen. My best friend and I start an amateur theater company called Local Productions and we begin putting on plays in Venice restaurants after hours. Unfortunately, at some point, we both need to get real jobs. Fortunately, my salaried position is at Cornerstone Theater Company, a professional community-based theater in Los Angeles that integrates professional actors and local talent to create dynamic new plays. I work as the associate director of education creating new plays for secondary students.
Jump ahead five years and I am finishing a grad degree at New York University and beginning a Directing fellowship with the Drama League in NYC. I’ve just completed writing a play and I am in a bar waiting for a friend to meet me for a celebratory drink. My now-husband walks into the bar and we strike up a conversation about death, Buddhism and organized religion. You know, the stuff most strangers talk about in a bar.
I explain that I work in LA, go to school in NYC and direct plays wherever they will hire me (Florida, Aspen, Washington DC, etc). He explains that he just moved to Boulder, CO. I say, “What’s Boulder?”
We start dating long distance. Eventually, I visit Boulder and think, “Wait a minute. There are people who wake up in a place that is gorgeous every single day? People who have jobs and pay bills and travel and go to the DMV and make art and feel good almost every day? I’ll try that.”
I join my now-husband in Colorado but continue to travel to direct plays all over the county including NYC, Boston, Ashland, Ore, Palm Beach, Fl) The life of a freelance director is itinerant. Soon, I realize that I don’t want to be on the road: I want to live in Colorado and dedicate my work to developing new American plays. I want to work with living playwrights who are telling the stories of TODAY. While I love the classics, my favorite part of live theater is connecting a playwrights vision to a living, breathing audience. I want to discover, develop and produce new, diverse and exceptional plays for Colorado audiences.
I revive Local Theater Company in Boulder, Co! After seven amazing years, Local has developed over 30 plays in our annual Local Lab New Play Festival and we’ve produced 10 world-premiere productions. Our playwrights have gone on to Broadway, Hollywood, etc. but their work started here with our brilliant audiences giving feedback and serving as their first audiences. At Local, it’s about the audience.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In the arts, women are often 2nd. They are the “valued associate”, the “indispensable deputy” and more often than not, second in command. In professional theater, the statistics are even worse. This season on Broadway, ONE woman directed a new play.
My advice to women beginning their careers: start your own thing. Define the work you want to create and don’t ask for permission. Make mistakes, forgive yourself, surround yourself with smart colleagues and continue to make, make and make, create your own healthy work culture.
Have children if you want them and never apologize. I am a parent and it’s tough to run a business and stay vulnerable and creative. But mothers are superheroes and you can do it. There is nothing more beautiful than creating a piece of art and sharing the experience with our children. Last year, my son saw a play I directed four times. No standing ovation was more impactful than my son leaning over to whisper in my ear after the show, “Thank you, Mom. I loved that play,” The play was about the spectrum of masculinity in American culture.
Be brave. You are setting the stage for young women all around you.
What should we know about Local Theater Company in Boulder, Co? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am the Founding Artistic Director of Local Theater Company in Boulder, Co. Local Theater Co discovers, develops and produces new American plays. We search for great stories and storytellers from all over the county and produce new plays for Colorado audiences.
Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of our work. We cast exceptional talent and uphold our commitment to cultural authenticity. Eighty percent of our talent is local but if we can’t find the talent here in Colorado, we bring actors in to ensure that we’re celebrating diversity and not defaulting to our industry’s standard of casting white when not otherwise specified. I’ve been told that since Local started making diversity on stage a priority eight years ago, we have encouraged other companies in Colorado to do the same.
At Local Theater Company, our plays are timely. They will make you think, laugh and feel. If you want to learn something, read an essay. If you want to feel something, come to a Local Theater Company production in Boulder!
Do you have any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general? What has worked well for you?
Fellowships and apprenticeships are essential for young artists. Scour the internet and look for applications online for paid internships in your field. Identify someone whose work you love and ask to be their assistant. Don’t complain if there’s grunt work. Make yourself indispensable by developing an impeccable work ethic. And then, go create your own thing!
- Subscribe to Local Theater Company’s 2019/2020 Season (best value)
- Buy a ticket to a Local Theater Company production ($20-$35)
- Donate to Local Theater Company’s LocalWRITES playwriting residency for emerging bilingual students
- Address: Local Theater Company
Dairy ARTS Center
- Website: www.LocalTheaterCo.org
- Email: pesha@LocalTheaterCo.org
- Instagram: @localtheaterco
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LOCALTheater/
George Lange Photography, Michael Ensminger Photography