Kitchen artistic director will step down

By Tompkins Weekly Staff
Rachel LampertKitchen Theatre Company Artistic Director Rachel Lampert has informed the Board of Directors that the 2016-2017 Season will be her final season at the theater.
“Next season will be my twentieth as Artistic Director, and I feel that is a milestone and an appropriate time to start new endeavors­my third act. I wanted to be sure the Board of Directors had ample time to find the next Artistic Director, so I have let them know of my plans,” says Lampert.
Lampert’s tenure has been marked by Kitchen Theatre Company’s evolution from a struggling upstart to an established cultural center for Ithaca, Tompkins County and Central New York. She has championed the work of artists of color, women and LGBTQ writers, directors and actors. As a producer, she is recognized for her savvy ability to choose seasons that keep subscribers returning while provocatively pushing the envelope and always maintaining the core mission that “important conversations happen in the Kitchen.”
As a writer, she is responsible for some of the theater’s most successful world premieres, including “Precious Nonsense,” “Tony & the Soprano” and “The Soup Comes Last.” Her directing has included many memorable productions, including “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in her first season, and “Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” “Venus in Fur,” “Broke-ology,” “Mary’s Wedding,” “Last Train to Nibroc,” “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” and this season’s “Peter and the Starcatcher,” co-directed by Sara Lampert Hoover, among others.
Her leadership as writer/director/producer of KTC’s Family Fare Series developed many young actors, directors and composers. She has mentored numerous directors and designers, often giving less experienced but very talented young people opportunities to take their first steps, while providing mid-career theater artists with an artistic home. She has built KTC’s Resident Professional Intern Program over the last ten years. This program helps launch recent college graduates into their theatrical careers.
Under her leadership, KTC became an Equity theater, employing actors under the Small Professional Theater Agreement. She was instrumental in the capital campaign to create a Bold New Space for Kitchen Theatre Company that culminated in the theater’s move to its permanent home on MLK Street in 2010.
“It is an extraordinary joy and privilege to work in the arts, and particularly fulfilling to work in this community,” says Lampert. “I am grateful to every subscriber, every ticket buyer, every sponsor, every donor, every actor, every director, every designer, every technician, every intern, every staff member who gave their time, their passion and their love to the work we do. I had the great good luck to work with so many cherished colleagues. In the early years: Craig Payea, Wendy Dann, Jody Vander Yacht, Wendy Woods, Darlynne Stefanko, and Ross Haarstad treaded water with me. More recent fellow travelers Emily Jackson, Brendan Komala, LaShawn Keyser and Jen Schilansky have shared their enormous energy and commitment with so much generosity of spirit. And, I am forever grateful to my long-time friends-in-theater-insanity Lesley Greene and Stephen Nunley, who have been swimming alongside me in rough and calm weather.”
About Lampert’s tenure, frequent guest director Margarett Perry says, “Rachel changed my life by trusting me as an artist and giving me a theatrical home. She gave me the opportunity to direct my first out-and-out comedy, my first Pinter and my first Coward. She also created an artistic home for my favorite playwright (Brian Dykstra) and allowed us to work together on four world premiere productions, including one commission. My collaboration with Rachel over the past ten years has been the single most significant factor in my development as a director and an artist. I cannot express how grateful I am that she burst into my life ten years ago.”
Writer/actor Alexander Thomas adds, “Rachel has supported and nurtured me as an artist for the past thirteen years. I will sorely miss the diverse opportunities she has given me to practice and deepen my craft. She has the best eye in the business for casting. No matter how much of a stretch it seems, if Rachel cast an actor in a role you can rest assured that the actor has the ability to pull it off.”
Actor/playwright Brian Dykstra says, “Every playwright and actor likes to find a place that feels like home – a place where you are welcomed and fed and offered a place to work, rest, grow, and learn. Rachel opened her arms to me, welcoming me into her home, where we got to cook lots of stuff together. She is one of the voices in the wilderness whispering or shouting, “What you’re doing is worthy!” And, that kind of support is paramount in a business where rejection is the other (often more common) side of the coin. Her leadership at KTC has equaled support, acceptance, and care. Which, I think, may be the best way to grow something as delicate as a play.”
Barry Chester, President of the Kitchen Theatre Board of Directors says, “It is with much regret that we received Rachel’s news. While it is much too soon to be saying goodbyes, the Board wishes to take this opportunity to thank Rachel for her vision and dedicated leadership of the company for so many years. Her energy and commitment have been unparalleled, with obvious results on stage. She also has built the Kitchen’s reputation locally and nationally among playwrights, actors, directors, donors, and grant-making organizations. An additional part of Rachel’s contribution is that she has made KTC a place where all those involved with the theater want to work.”
Lampert is currently planning the 2016-2017 Season. In her words, “Our 25th Anniversary Season has been such a great one, with so many inspiring productions:. It is a hard act to follow. But I am determined to find a great final season for me and the best 26th season for Kitchen Theatre Company.”