Bonnie Franklin, 69, who starred in 'One Day at a Time' and Ventura theater roles, dies

  • By Brett Johnson
  • Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:37 a.m., updated March 1, 2013 at 2:36 p.m.

NEW YORK — Bonnie Franklin, the pert, redheaded actress whom millions came to identify with for her role as divorced mom Ann Romano on the long-running sitcom “One Day at a Time,” has died.

Franklin, who was a regular in Ventura theater roles and had a house here, died today at her home in Los Angeles due to complications from pancreatic cancer, family members said. She was 69. Her family had announced she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September.

Franklin was a veteran stage and television performer before “One Day At a Time” made her a star.

News of Franklin’s passing hit especially hard at the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, where she had starred in three productions — “Dancing at Lughnasa,” “A Delicate Balance” and, most recently, a 2011 version of “Steel Magnolias.”

“We loved her,” said Karyl Lynn Burns, Rubicon’s co-founder and producing artistic director. “She was vibrant and full of life. She was feisty and funny and sometimes irreverent — and very, very loving.”

Burns said emails were flying today among cast members, staff, patrons and the like. On Thursday, Jenny Sullivan, who is directing the “Our Town” production that kicks off at the Rubicon next week, left a rehearsal early to go visit Franklin in Los Angeles. By that time, Franklin was in a coma, Burns noted.

Franklin showed no signs of illness during “Steel Magnolias,” Burns said. After she was diagnosed, Sullivan and Rubicon costume designer Alex Jaeger took Franklin wig shopping to offset the hair she’d lose from the chemotherapy for her pancreatic cancer.

Franklin kept a weekend beach home in Ventura for more than 30 years; she married the late Hollywood producer Marvin Minoff on the deck there in 1980. She also had a home in the San Fernando Valley.

Ventura, Franklin affectionately told The Star in a 2003 interview, “is like being in another world.” On the day of the interview, she opined that she and the writer should go looking for dolphins along Surfers Point rather than talk theater. She recalled a walk with her husband there where they’d seen dolphins “as far as you could see. It was so exciting.”

Franklin also had a home in the San Fernando Valley and ran plays at a Los Angeles theater; some of those productions, Burns noted, also came to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

The Franklin-Rubicon marriage began sometime before the “Dancing at Lughnasa” run in 2003. Sullivan had found out that Franklin lived in Ventura part-time, and then Franklin’s manager called to say that she wanted to play the Maggie role, Burns recalled.

That role, of a full-of-life woman who loved dancing and being the rebel, was Franklin, Burns noted. It also was a bit of a switch from the “sort of perfect mom” she played on “One Day at a Time.”

“So people were always surprised that she loved to curse,” Burns said, laughing at the memory. “But though she liked to curse like a sailor, she was one of the greatest people in the world.”

In addition to the productions, Franklin also did benefit readings for the Rubicon, Burns noted.

She called Franklin “a brilliant actor, singer and dancer.” There is a graveyard scene in the upcoming “Our Town,” and Sullivan and others already had hit upon the idea of putting names on the tombstones of those close to the local theater scene who are no longer with us, Burns related.

Franklin’s name will now join them.

“There’s been a lot of beautiful souls who have come through the building,” Burns said softly. “We’ll have them with us for this play.”

“One Day At a Time,” developed by Norman Lear and co-created by Whitney Blake — herself a former sitcom star and single mother raising future actress Meredith Baxter — the series was groundbreaking for its focus on a young divorced mother seeking independence from a suffocating marriage.

It premiered on CBS in December 1975, just five years after the network had balked at having Mary Tyler Moore play a divorced woman on her own comedy series, insisting that newly single Mary Richards be portrayed as having ended her engagement instead.

On her own in Indianapolis, Ann Romano was raising two teenage girls — played by Mackenzie Phillips, already famous for the film “American Graffiti,” and a previously unknown Valerie Bertinelli. “One Day At a Time” ran on CBS until 1984, by which time both daughters had grown and married, while Romano had remarried and become a grandmother. During the first seven of its nine seasons on the air, the show was a Top 20 hit.

Born Bonnie Gail Franklin in Santa Monica she entered show business at an early age. She was a child tap dancer and actress, and a protégé of Donald O’Connor, with whom she performed in the 1950s on NBC’s “Colgate Comedy Hour.”

A private memorial will be held next week, her family said.

© 2013 Ventura County Star.


A Christmas Carol Videos

Marley from Zachary Andrews on Vimeo

Over the past two years I have developed the unlikeliest of Christmas traditions: self producing a hip-hop song based
on some bit of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This year's jam is called "MARLEY", and is dedicated to
all our fellow Christmas Carolers around the country. And to my Dad. This is his Christmas present. :)
Happy closing and safe travels! God bless us, everyone!


Written and Produced by Zachary Andrews and Treavor Wheetman, featuring the 2015 cast and crew
of 'A Christmas Carol' in Ventura, CA,
who generously donated their time to make this video possible.

The cast of the 2016 critically-acclaimed production of "Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
at Rubicon Theatre Company." Watch the magic during rehearsals as the timeless story comes to life.
Filmed and edited by Zachary Andrews

RUBICON'S 2014 - 2015 Season Highlights video on their website and on YouTube



RUBICON'S 2010 - 2011 Season in Pictures video on their website and on YouTube



15 Years of Rubicon video on their website and on YouTube












Arts groups win almost $1 million in grants

  • By Kathleen Wilson
  • Posted October 5, 2011 at 4 p.m., updated October 5, 2011 at 5:08 p.m.

Three Ventura County arts groups have won grants totaling nearly $1 million from the James Irvine Foundation, officials announced Wednesday.

The Rubicon Theatre won $350,000, the largest award among those given to 13 arts groups on California's Central Coast.

"We couldn't be more excited about it," said Karyl Lynn Burns, artistic producing director of the regional theater in Ventura.

The Ojai Music Festival received $325,000 and the Museum of Ventura County got $300,000 in the grants approved Wednesday by the board of the San Francisco foundation.

Foundation officials said the grants are designed to boost nonprofit groups' financial strength and increase cultural participation from underrepresented communities.

Jeff Haydon, executive director of the Ojai festival, said the grants are unusual. Most funding organizations give money for programs, not the marketing, planning and financial projects that strengthen nonprofit groups, he said.

"These grants are really valuable and rare," he said.

All three groups also got grants in 2008 through a regional initiative begun by the foundation to bolster the arts in communities other than California's major cities. The $12 million program helped arts groups in areas stretching from the Central Valley and the Inland Empire to suburban Southern California counties and the Central Coast.

The Ventura County arts groups took home $850,000 that year and $975,000 this time. Officials said they will use the money to build audiences and their organizations.

The Museum of Ventura County plans to hire a consultant to help increase support and audience among Latinos, plus add a volunteer coordinator and director of finance. Executive Director Tim Schiffer said the hiring of the financial director will allow him to spend more time working on exhibitions and programs.

Haydon intends to use the funds to expand the audiences coming to the festival and improve financial management.

Rubicon managers will develop a strategic plan, evaluate capital facilities and rebuild staffing levels cut in the economic downturn. The organization also will work on increasing the number of Latinos who come to the theater. Organizers expect to produce a show in both English and Spanish in the 2012-13 season.

Other organizations winning grants include the State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra and Opera Santa Barbara, the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas and the Monterey Jazz Festival.

© 2011 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




Rubicon Theatre gets a reprieve

Troupe says it has a deal to keep playhouse

Ensemble Theatre Co./David Bazemore 

Stephanie Zimbalist will portray Katharine Hepburn in the one-woman play “Tea at Five” at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura.

Ensemble Theatre Co./David Bazemore

Stephanie Zimbalist will play Katharine Hepburn in the one-woman play “Tea at Five.” 
The play opens Aug. 25.

Leaders of Ventura’s cash-strapped Rubicon Theatre Co. last week released two pieces of good news: They have reached a deal in principle to hold on to its foreclosed playhouse, and unveiled an unexpected nearly four-week run of a one-woman play that tells the story of Katharine Hepburn.

The combination should provide a boost for the award-winning playhouse as it maneuvers to stay financially viable and convince members and sponsors it can still stage top-quality programming that cemented its national reputation.

The refinancing plan, which still must be finalized, would call off an Aug. 30 public auction for the 200-seat theater, a renovated historic church in downtown Ventura.

Final documents are being drafted to restructure about $900,000 in outstanding debt that will allow the regional theater company to maintain ownership, said Roz Warner, Rubicon’s board chairwoman, who met with officials from Rabobank last week.

“We absolutely will be done before that,” Warner said of the Aug. 30 deadline.

Steep cuts — including staff reductions and co-productions with other companies to spread advertising and preproduction costs and touring — have put the company in improved financial condition, Warner said. The company plans to begin its 13th season this fall.

Closing the current season will be “Tea at Five,” a one-woman play that tells the story of Katharine Hepburn in a monologue. Directed by Jenny Sullivan, the play will feature veteran actress and past Rubicon performer Stephanie Zimbalist as Hepburn.

The production, to run from Aug. 25 through Sept. 19, has garnered positive reviews during its run at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Ensemble Theatre in Santa Barbara, and Cape Playhouse in Cape Cod, Mass.

“We have really focused, even as we have cut costs, on storytelling and quality and keeping that artistic integrity,” said Karyl Lynn Burns, producing artistic director.

Stretched by contrary trends

Like playhouses across the country, Rubicon has grappled for years with a widening budget shortfall. It relied on a small cadre of individuals and companies for sizable contributions, which have dropped as the economy soured. At the same time, production costs continue to rise.

Even with sold-out performances, ticket and concession sales typically cover 40 to 50 percent of a show’s cost, leaving a gap that must be covered by donations, grants and earnings from a small endowment.

Today, Rubicon employs six full-time employees, and roughly 13 part-time employees, many of whom agreed to pay cuts of 10 percent to 40 percent.

“At one time, we had 28 full-time employees,” Burns said.

The company is on track to eliminate about $500,000 in operating debt by Sept. 30, 2011, Burns said.

Despite its recent struggles, subscriber commitment is strong.

About 86 percent of last year’s subscribers have renewed, bettering a national average of close to 70 percent, Burns said.

Shorter season slated

The cost for the new season was reduced to help retain subscribers and possibly lure new ones. The season’s productions were reduced from seven to five, officials said.

“We don’t take for granted customer loyalty. We feel that loyalty comes because we are committed to quality,” Burn said. “We are committed to offering the greatest quality within our means.”

One area the company refused to cut was its youth education and outreach programs, even as the number of youths seeking fee waivers or scholarships has increased, Burns said.

This month, those youths will present the second Kids for Kids Benefit Concert.

The one-night fundraiser on Aug. 16 will feature a cabaret concert starring Gabby Trainor. Other performances will include adult actors Teri Bibb (from “Phantom of the Opera”), Trey Ellett (“Rent”), Joan Almedilla (“Les Miserables”) and Dina Bennett (“Lies and Legends”).

Last year’s event sold out, and raised more than $11,000 for youth programs.

In addition, “Hello My Baby,” the final summer youth musical camp production, will close its run Aug. 15.

Finalizing a deal with Rabobank and its debtholders would allow the company to shift its focus back on what it does best, entertaining people, Warner said.

The 6,320-square-foot theater’s assessed value was $1.43 million as of Jan. 1, according to the Ventura County Assessor’s Office. Details of the refinancing plan were not released.

Tom Mortensen, a vice president at Rabobank, declined to comment on the negotiations.

“This is our time to be successful,” Warner said.

On the Net:


© 2010 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




Nonprofit group fighting to block foreclosure of Rubicon Theatre


Leaders of Ventura's Rubicon Theatre Co. say they have reached a tentative agreement to avoid foreclosure on its landmark theater house as they work their way out of serious financial difficulties.

The 200-seat theater, a renovated historic church, was scheduled to be sold "as is" to the highest bidder Tuesday outside the county Hall of Justice in Ventura. But the sale was postponed to Aug. 30 at the behest of a Fresno bank that controls the deed, a bank official said.

A public legal notice announcing the auction stated that the winning bidder would have to absorb $206,770 in outstanding debt.

The postponement allows time for the parties to finalize the tentative deal for the regional theater company to maintain ownership, Dr. Roz Warner, president of the Rubicon board of directors, said Wednesday.

"We are confident this will be resolved," she said.

The sides have been in "good faith" talks for several months, Warner said, declining to discuss specifics or how the nonprofit theater would meet its financial obligations.

"The whole goal is survival," she said. "The bank is interested in survival, as are we. I think we are going to be OK."

A foreclosure notice was issued last month after the playhouse failed to make mortgage payments.

The deed is controlled by W.T. Capital Lender Services in Fresno, according to the legal notice.

Despite the finanical uncertainty, the theater's website continues to sell tickets for summer youth education programs, which have had three sold-out performances. The company plans to begin its 13th season in October, Warner said.

To those who have bought tickets, she said: "Yes, we are going to be here."

Theater supporters were surprised to learn the playhouse was set for auction.

Seeing the theater change hands "would be devastating," said Doug Halter, a landscape business owner and house builder who, along with painting contractor Joe Murray, renovated the historic church at 1006 Main St. in the late 1990s.

The pair reopened it as the Laurel Theater specifically to house Rubicon Theater Co. productions and later sold it to the company in 2004, reportedly for about $1 million.

Halter sees the award-winning regional theater as one of the most important additions to the city in the past three decades and a critical catalyst to downtown's recent revival.

"Financially, everyone is hurting right now," Halter said, from nonprofits to small businesses.

Though he's not privy to internal talks, Halter said he was hopeful the foreclosure was more a procedural requirement and less a result of the company's ability to pay its bills.

"Most banks right now are not even willing to talk to you about renegotiations until there is a default of some sort," Halter said.

"I think this would be a terrible loss for Ventura," said Ventura resident Helen Yunker, who made a top gift of $500,000 in 2004 to help purchase the 1920s church.

Yunker gasped when told of the scheduled sale. She said the playhouse's high-quality works put Ventura on the map in the theater world. "It must be saved," she said.

If the theater is sold, the new owner would have options. Current zoning rules would allow for commercial or multifamily uses, city planning officials said.

The listed owner of the 6,320-square-foot theater is Burnon Inc., a nonprofit led by Karyl Lynn Burns, who co-founded the theater company with her husband, James O'Neil, in 1998.

Burns, who is away in New York City, referred questions Wednesday to Warner and Patricia Baldwin, the former chief financial officer who came out of retirement last year to resume the same role.

In an e-mail, Burns said the board has been working with the bank on a new deal.

The property's assessed value was $1.43 million as of Jan. 1, according to the county assessor's office.

Theater operators have been grappling for years with a widening budget shortfall. Last year, the playhouse launched a $1 million fundraising campaign to stay afloat, raising almost $400,000, Warner said.

The Rubicon for years has relied on a small cadre of individuals and companies for sizable contributions. Such donations, however, have dropped dramatically as the economy soured. At the same time, production costs continue to rise. Yunker, for instance, said Wednesday that she's "exhausted her ability to give."

Even with sold-out performances, ticket and concession sales typically cover 40 to 50 percent of a show's cost, leaving a gap that must be covered by donations, grants and earnings from a small endowment.

Warner said the company has taken dramatic steps to reduce costs. Staff members were let go, spending has been cut "by half" and more productions are being co-produced with other companies as a way to spread advertising and pre-production costs and touring.

The Rubicon is hardly alone. Nearly 60 percent of theater groups nationwide face deficits and only a third believe they would break even in 2009, according to a recent survey of 210 companies conducted by the Theater Communications Group.

Several playhouses have had to close because of the harsh economic conditions. The Pasadena Playhouse closed in February. Others include San Jose's American Musical Theater, The Madison Repertory Theater in Madison, Wis., Milwaukee Shakespeare in Milwaukee, and the Charleston Stage in Charleston, S.C.

"We have gone through some difficult financial periods in the last year," Warner said. "But there was no point (in the talks with the bank) where we felt we were not going to work this out."




Financially challenged Rubicon revises season

Star staff file photo

Karyl Lynn Burns and James O’Neil met 23 years ago in Santa Barbara in an audition for “Man of La Mancha.” 
Today she is the producing artistic director and he is the artistic director both of the Rubicon Theatre Company 
in Ventura.

The Rubicon Theatre Company, under severe financial pressure, has slashed its budget, reduced and reconfigured its staff and radically revised its lineup of plays for the 2009-10 season.

Long-planned large-cast shows have been replaced with productions requiring fewer actors, in what producing artistic director Karyl Lynn Burns calls an unfortunate but necessary adjustment. “Our priority this year,” Burns said, “is to reduce expenses while maintaining artistic quality and integrity.”

While both subscriptions and single-ticket sales at the Ventura-based professional stage company remain strong, donations have fallen drastically because of the economic downturn. “Our eight to 10 largest givers are in industries that have been very hard hit: automobiles, real estate and banking,” Burns said.

In response, the board of directors approved a $1.8 million budget for 2009-10, a steep drop from last season’s $3.2 million. For 2007-08, the budget was $3.8 million.

In addition, Patricia Baldwin has been hired as chief financial officer. Managing director of Santa Barbara’s Ensemble Theatre Company for 10 years and financial director of Rubicon for three, she came out of retirement to shape a two-year financial recovery plan for the theater and has agreed to stay on to implement it. Burns calls her “a tough, savvy manager.”

Currently in its 12th season, Rubicon is one of Ventura County’s largest and most prestigious arts organizations, regularly winning Ovation Awards for excellence in Southern California theater. It finished last season with 2,700 subscribers.

The 2009-10 season, which began with the well-received world premiere musical “Daddy Long Legs,” will continue as scheduled with “A Rubicon Family Christmas” Dec. 5-27. But the remainder of the year is completely changed.

“Doubt,” John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the clash between a stern nun and a priest who may be abusing boys (adapted into a Meryl Streep movie last year), will run Jan. 30 through Feb. 21. Jenny Sullivan directs a cast headed by Robin Pearson Rose and Joseph Fuqua, who played the title role in Rubicon’s “Hamlet.”

Sullivan returns to direct “Trying,” a fact-based story about a young woman’s relationship with an elderly former attorney general, March 13 through April 4. The production, originally scheduled to run this past fall, will feature Robin Gammell and Angela Goethals. Artistic director James O’Neil will direct Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy “Crimes of the Heart” April 24 through May 16.

Two short-run shows open to current subscribers only — both world premieres — will follow. They are “In All Honesty,” an absurdist comedy by 17-year-old Santa Barbara playwright Quinn Sosna-Spear, and “Address Unknown,” an adaptation of a Holocaust-era novel by veteran director Moni Yakim.

Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” which was scheduled to cap off the season, will now be produced as a semi-staged reading to begin the 2010-11season in October.

Both four-show subscriptions ($151 to $185) and individual tickets ($39 to $59, or $25 for students) are available by phone (667-2900) or through the company’s Web site (http://www.rubicontheatre.org).

The theater’s popular education programs, including after-school classes and summer workshops, are scheduled to continue without interruption. But all these plans are contingent upon finding funds to keep the company solvent through the spring, when projections call for cash flow to turn positive.

“Can we keep the doors open? It’s up to the community,” said O’Neil, who in addition to being artistic director is Burns’ husband. “It always has been, and it always will be.

“We have to get the support that we need. We can only pay for half of our operation (through ticket sales). The rest is up to the largess of the community.”




Photo courtesy of Jeanne Tanner Photography

Merle DiVita is Nurse Ratched and a sheet-covered Joseph Fuqua is McMurphy in the 2010 Dramatic Dames Calendar’s February depiction of the play “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.” Organized as a fundraiser for Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, it features members of the volunteer auxiliary Grandes Dames.

With a passion for the arts, some give their all in new calendars

It's a date

When the going gets tough, the tough get naked.

Prodded by stripped-to-the-bone budgets, supporters of the arts in Ventura County have taken off the gloves — and the shirts, pants and assorted unmentionables — to help. The results are two calendars for 2010 that feature local residents posing in the buff.

The Dramatic Dames Calendar is the inaugural effort of the Grandes Dames, the volunteer auxiliary of the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura.

It features members of the fundraising group wearing little more than smiles and carefully placed props as they interpret scenes from plays staged by the professional theater troupe.

Merle DiVita is Nurse Ratched and a sheet-covered Joseph Fuqua is McMurphy in the 2010 Dramatic Dames Calendar’s February depiction of the play “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.” Organized as a fundraiser for Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, it features members of the volunteer auxiliary Grandes Dames.

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Tanner Photography

Merle DiVita is Nurse Ratched and a sheet-covered Joseph Fuqua is McMurphy in the 2010 Dramatic Dames Calendar’s February depiction of the play “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.” Organized as a fundraiser for Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, it features members of the volunteer auxiliary Grandes Dames.

“A couple of years ago, we did a cookbook of the Grandes Dames’ favorite recipes. Last year, the project was cases of wine with show posters as the labels. This just seemed like a fun way to continue the theme,” said Grandes Dames President Wendy Gillett.

The Men of Ojai Calendar for 2010 is an all-new version of one last produced in 2007, said Demitri Corbin, director of what is now called the Ojai Calendar Project.

“In the beginning, it was a protest, a way of bringing awareness to the need for the city of Ojai to reinstate the arts grants it had discontinued during an earlier financial crisis,” he said.

But the inspiration to actually create the black-and-white calendar of images by photographer Attasalina Dews was a lot more colorful than that sounds, Corbin admitted.

“I was at Movino Wine Bar one night and asked some friends, ‘Would you pose nude for a good cause?’ And people said, ‘Sure!’ A few weeks passed and I forgot about it. Then a friend asked, ‘What’s going to happen with the calendar, man?’”

The selection of models was more complicated than merely finding local men willing to show some skin, he said.

Volunteers were asked to fill out an application listing their interests, then to undergo face-to-face interviews with Corbin on the topic of the calendar theme, which this year is “freedom.”

Finalists then were selected by the cheekily named Council of Fabulousness, a group of women with ties to the arts in Ventura County.

“It’s not just about looks; it’s about who makes real contributions to the community,” said Corbin.

This year, the project comes full circle with the inclusion of Movino manager and Ojai Art Center Theater producer Billy Wilds, who is featured striking what is, for the calendar, a rare indoors pose: reading on his couch at home.

In the spirit of the 2003 Helen Mirren film “Calendar Girls,” women willing to appear in the Dramatic Dames project were asked to put their names into a bucket for selection by drawing. Winners of the drawing were then paired with what Gillett considered “iconic” plays from Rubicon’s history.

They include former Ventura Mayor Rosa Lee Measures in a depiction of the William Inge play “Bus Stop,” certified financial planner Merle DiVita as Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and octogenarian Realtor Helen Yunker — her hair loosened from its usual bun — as Blanche DuBois in a tableau from “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

The calendar’s images were shot on the Rubicon stage by photographer Jeanne Tanner during a single, busy week in October, between performances of “Daddy Long Legs.” The women did their own hair and makeup and in some cases brought their props.

“When you see them, you really get the sense that these are gorgeous, confident women who felt the importance of taking it off for charity,” said Gillett. “We loved doing it, and would consider doing it again.”

Dramatic Dames 2010: The calendar produced by the Grandes Dames as a fundraiser for Rubicon Theatre Co. in Ventura will debut at the group’s luncheon and boutique from 11:30 a.m. Dec. 7 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Oxnard, 600 E. Esplanade Drive. It also is available by calling Rubicon development coordinator Amber Landis at 667-2912, ext. 237. Cost is $20 for advance orders, $25 after Dec. 7.



Readers are invited to help columnist Colleen Cason pick the 2010 Hardest Worker in Ventura County for the annual Labor Day award. Voting is at the very bottom of this page.


Karyl Lynn Burns of Ventura: Always in the act

Karyl  Burns, Karyl Lynn Burns, as a founder and producing artistic director for the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, loves her work and works 18 hours a day and sometimes more, often seven days a week.

Obviously this has not been the easiest of times with the financial downturn making it difficult for many theaters to survive. With substantial staff cutbacks, necessitated by the economy, Karyl Lynn has picked up even more jobs and duties.

While not her favorite thing, Karyl Lynn has continued to solicit support from locals while keeping a positive attitude and at the same time travels all over the country and Canada to co-produce, cast or promote shows that originated here as world premieres and to work through contract issues such as with playwrights and unions.

Besides occasionally rehearsing and acting a part, she is largely responsible for working with the actors, arranging their housing needs, announcing many of the shows, directing previews, doing educational outreach; plus organizing special events and talk-back sessions on selected shows.

The Rubicon Theatre is Karyl Lynn's baby and her passion. She seems to never sleep.

Nominated by Mike Merewether of Ventura, Rubicon vice president. This is the second time Burns has been nominated.

Ventura County 2010 Hardest Worker

Voting ends at noon Thursday, Sept. 2. You many only vote once. Please include your name and email address as confirmation.

VOTE HERE:  http://www.vcstar.com/vote/hardestworker/

Karyl Lynn and Jim were featured in the 2/8/07 Ventura County Star in honor of their performances in "Love Letters" for RTC's February Month of Love events - CONGRATULATIONS YET AGAIN, GUYS!!!


Karen Quincy Loberg / Star staff

Being married doesn't make their jobs as Rubicon Theatre Company's artistic directors any more difficult, say James O'Neil and Karyl Lynn Burns. "I think it's a high-pressure job for anyone," Burns says.

Photos by Karen Quincy Loberg / Star staff

James O'Neil and Karyl Lynn Burns, who have been married for 21 years, pore over head shots during a casting session for Rubicon Theatre's upcoming production of "The Diary of Anne Frank." Running the company gives the couple time to "be together and work together," Burns says, which is something they rarely could do when both were acting.

Karen Quincy Loberg / Star staff

James O'Neil pops into his wife's office at the Rubicon Theatre to talk business. "We don't have too many disagreements about the work; we see eye-to-eye 95-plus percent of the time," O'Neil says.

Getting there

Sweet but slight

Love is center stage

The spotlight's on romance for Rubicon Theatre founders Karyl Lynn Burns and James O'Neil

By Karen Lindell klindell@VenturaCountyStar.com
February 8, 2007

"I loved her even from the day I met her, when she walked into second grade, looking like the lost princess of Oz."

— Andy, "Love Letters"

In 1984, traveling from Los Angeles to audition for Santa Barbara Repertory Theatre's production of "Man of La Mancha," Karyl Lynn Burns knew exactly where she was going.

James O'Neil, the theater's associate producer, thought he was merely meeting with Burns to answer questions about Equity contracts.

Neither expected to find a partner for life — and certainly not for two lives.

"In marriage and in the theater business, 'til death do us part," could have been part of their wedding vows.

After performing together in "Man of La Mancha" — Burns as Don Quixote's nasty niece, Antonia, and O'Neil as her villainous male counterpart, Dr. Carrasco — they wed in 1985, and 13 years later founded Ventura's Rubicon Theatre Company, where today they serve as the company's artistic directors.

Instant connection

Lending weight to the cliché, their love connection was at first sight.

"I felt something immediately," Burns said.

"It was just seeing her come up the walk," O'Neil recalled.

He walked Burns to her audition. A short time later (either two weeks or two months; their memories don't mesh on the timing), during a "business" breakfast in Santa Barbara, O'Neil proposed — sort of.

"He said we could have a life together," said Burns, smiling. "I think it was a little unofficial in its presentation."

"It was official from my end," O'Neil said.

Still, he waited another six months to make a "proper" proposal, at a romantic dinner with a ring in his pocket.

Their business breakfasts today take place at home.

"I think we've just accepted that it's not separate," Burns said of their personal and professional collaboration. "It's not really a job to us anyway — it's our passion, so we share it on every level."

"Over the years, our relationship as artists and as people has evened out," O'Neil said. "As we've learned about each other, we've learned about the art itself. We know what our roles are."

P.S.: ‘Love Letters'

This month, when they take on the roles of two people who love each other ? they'll be acting.

As part of the Rubicon Theatre's February "Month of Love" valentine-related productions, Burns and O'Neil will perform A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" Feb. 19-20.

The minimally staged show, presented as a series of letters read by a man and a woman, tells the 50-years-long love story of Andrew (Andy) Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, intimate friends who never marry but correspond with each other throughout their lives.

Three other Valentine's-time shows are scheduled this month at the Rubicon:

"A Time for Love," a world-premiere musical by Tony winner Richard Maltby Jr. and Academy and Grammy winner David Shire, opened Saturday and runs through Feb. 25 (read Rita Moran's review on Page 29).

On Monday, the theater presents "A Romantic Rendezvous with Linda Purl," a cabaret show starring the stage and TV actress and singer.

On Feb. 26, Emmy Award-winning actress Susan Clark stars in "A Woman of Independent Means," a one-woman play adapted from Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey's best-selling 1978 novel.

‘Love Letters' reprise

Although Burns and O'Neil have offices a mere 20 feet or so apart at the Rubicon Theatre, and log the same long hours, the opportunity to be on stage together in "Love Letters" is a perk.

"There are a lot of administrative duties to tend to," Burns said. "Even though we're working together all the time, we don't have a lot of time together on stage."

O'Neil directs many productions at Rubicon, and both he and Burns have acted in a few of the company's shows. They've performed in the same show at the theater only three times, in "The Little Foxes," "Dancing at Lughnasa" and a previous run of "Love Letters."

Yes, "Love Letters" has returned (no "return postage" jokes, please), this time for two nights only.

Rubicon's 2000 production of "Love Letters" lasted several weeks and featured a rotating cast of celebrity acting pairs, some real-life couples and others not, including Jack Lemmon and Felicia Farr, Amanda McBroom and George Ball, Stephanie Zimbalist and John Bennett Perry and Linda Gray and Larry Hagman.

The Rubicon also invited local theater directors to participate in the 2000 show, including Anne Lockhart and Lane Davies, co-founders of the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival in Thousand Oaks, and Kim Maxwell-Brown and Dwier Brown, co-founders of Ojai's Theater 150.

"Love Letters," which was the first play in Rubicon's inaugural subscription season (the theater officially opened in 1999), turned into an unexpected valentine.

Rubicon had been planning to kick off the season with Lillian Hellman's play "The Little Foxes," starring Linda Purl. "We were really building the show around her," Burns said, but for personal reasons the actress couldn't follow through with the production. "We were just devastated because we were a new company and thought people would not feel confident," Burns said.

The substitute was Gurney's play. Humorous yet poignant, "it was also very produceable," she said.

The show "ended up being probably the best thing that could have happened for us," Burns said. "The celebrities helped announce to the community that this was a professional endeavor." And the participation by local theater folks "was so welcoming. It felt like this great big community effort."

State of the hearts

Burns and O'Neil founded the Rubicon Theatre in part because they didn't want to have an "I'll see you when you're not on tour" theater marriage.

For many years after their wedding, O'Neil continued to act and direct while Burns, in addition to performing, took on a full-time position as head of State of The Arts, an arts marketing firm.

In the mid-1990s, while O'Neil was away for two years starring as Pontius Pilate in a national touring production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," Burns moved to Ventura, where State of The Arts was spearheading the Ventura Chamber Music Festival.

"When Jim came home from the road, he was probably going to go out on the road again, or we could do something together," Burns said. "So we created a business plan to start a theater company."

Ventura was ideal, she said, because the city lacked acting venues, and although Ventura County had excellent amateur community theaters, no one had established a professional theater in the region (meaning that actors would receive Equity union wages).

"There was the readiness to take a leap of faith because it gave us a chance to continue to be together and work together," Burns said.

Quality couple time wasn't their only incentive, however. "We also felt like our artistic backgrounds were similar and complementary," O'Neil said, citing the combination of their administrative skills (mostly Burns), directing skills (O'Neil) and acting talent (both). "Together, we could bring a lot to the table," O'Neil said.

Dissent is rare

The challenges of running the Rubicon, Burns said, aren't related to being a couple. "I think it's a high-pressure job for anyone," she said.

In the earlier years Burns and O'Neil tried to set a work-home boundary: No theater talk on personal time. "Eventually we accepted that wasn't going to happen," Burns said, adding that although they're not "overly demonstrative" in front of colleagues at the theater, they get to "sneak smooches" in the hallways.

Burns and O'Neil have been involved in the theater long enough to know which days won't win them Most Romantic Hours Together honors. "You just see it on the calendar," O'Neil said.

"Tech weekends" are especially bad, Burns said, referring to the grueling rehearsal period when the technical aspects of a production such as lighting, sets and costumes come together with the acting. These long weekends usually consist of two 12-hour days, boosted by an all-nighter to put together a show's program book.

Then there are the times when a majority of cast members for a Rubicon show live in Los Angeles County, which means that rehearsals take place in L.A. for the first two weeks. So if O'Neil is directing, that's 14 days of crawling back and forth on Highway 101. "Those weeks we won't see each other," he said.

Social outings are frequent, however, O'Neil said, because there's no shortage of parties in the theater world.

Like any couple, they have their spats, but fighting is rare. "We don't have too many disagreements about the work; we see eye-to-eye 95-plus percent of the time," O'Neil said.

"I think I had an idea at one time that I wouldn't marry someone in the same profession or in the arts, because the hours and lifestyle is challenging," Burns said. But now, "I can't imagine being married to someone who wasn't intensely involved in exactly the same way."

Jealousy about one spouse being in the spotlight more than the other has "never, ever, ever" been part of their relationship, O'Neil said.

"To me, Karyl Lynn is one of the best actresses I've ever seen anywhere in my life, and I'm not the only person who thinks that," he said, a lump in his throat as he gestured his arm toward her. "There she is — see? See?"

"I feel the same way about him as an actor and a director," said Burns, equally teary-eyed, "and we have something that a lot of couples don't have. Most people don't get to see their spouse at work. They don't get to see the other person do the thing that sets them apart from all others and sets them on fire. We get that."





Local News » Rubicon Theatre Brings Magic to Stage

Rubicon Theatre Brings Magic to Stage

Live theater is Ventura company's specialty, but it gives starring role to the education of youth actors

The cast from the Rubicon Theatre’s The Best Is Yet To Come, the music of Cy Coleman.
(Rod Lathim photo)

By | Published on 09.19.2009

The theater — meaning live performances on the stage — was long ago pronounced a “fabulous invalid” with a tenuous future, but it is alive and thriving at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura.

Karyl Lynn Burns, co-artistic director of the company, said in a recent interview that although the economic downturn has “hugely impacted” the arts world in the short run, the theater as an institution will go on. “I think that theater is eternal,” she said.

“It began with people around a fire, listening to stories. Then it was made a part of worship,” Burns said. “As long as people have stories to share and futures to dream about, there will be theater.”

Burns and her husband, James O’Neil, founded Rubicon Theatre 11 years ago. Before setting up 
shop in Ventura, the two were

Karyl Lynn Burns and her husband, Jim O’Neil, are co-founders of Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre. She’s the theater’s producing artistic director and he’s the artistic director. (Rod Lathim photo)
active in Santa Barbara stage work, including the Ensemble Theatre at the historic Alhecama.

The Rubicon is located at 1006 E. Main St., and seats 175 people on the main floor. An additional 20 seats are located in a new VIP suite, with leather chairs, beverage service and hors d’oeuvres.

The musical Godspell just finished a run at the Rubicon, and now the company is preparing its new show, Daddy Long Legs, a staged version of the beloved book by Jean Webster, the grand-niece of Mark Twain.

“It’s a world premiere, and it will preview on Oct. 14, and run through Nov. 8,’’ Burns said. Daddy Long Legs was adapted for the stage with a book by John Caird and music and lyrics by Paul Gordon.

While live theater presentations are the Rubicon’s main purpose, the theater group has a significant commitment to educating young people, Burns said. She stated simply that she and O’Neill regard the Rubicon as “our child,” and the two are dedicated to bringing young people into the profession.

Among the youth-oriented programs at Rubicon are daytime theater and performances in high schools, a summer musical theater camp, summer acting and technical camps, “Shakespeare in the Schools,’’ with company members performing scenes in classrooms, and Rubicon Young Professionals, offering internships to recent college and conservatory graduates.

The Jack Oakie Camp was created in memory of the popular movie actor, Burns said. Each summer, auditions are held and 30 to 40 young people are chosen to take part in the four-week intensive program.

“Under the direction of Brian McDonald, Rubicon’s education director, students are on-site six days a week, six hours a day, to focus on the process and performance of musical theater in a professional setting,’’ according to a company mission statement. This summer’s production of Godspell was a product of the Jack Oakie Camp.

Like most small theater companies, Rubicon has to scramble for money to keep the show going on.

“It takes a village to support a theater,” Burns said with a laugh. “Forty to 50 percent of our budget comes from ticket sales, but 50 to 60 percent comes from donations.”

Donors include individuals, grant providers and corporations.

“Ventura doesn’t have a large corporate component,” she said, “so we really do rely on personal contributions.”

Rubicon Theatre is one of the nonprofit organizations that receives online fundraising management assistance through givezooks!.

“Givezooks! is such a great way to make a gift, however small,” Burns said.

Click here for more information on the Rubicon Theatre, or to purchase tickets online.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

Comments (1)

» wrote on 09.20.09 @ 08:01 AM

If you have not made the short trek to Ventura to experience the Rubicon Theatre and its wonderful productions, you are missing out!  The south coast is lucky to have this amazing company in our back yard.  Can’t wait to see DADDY LONG LEGS.






The stars of A Rubicon Family Christmas are (from left) Brian Sutherland, Teri Bibb, Anthony 
Manough, Joan Almedilla, Dina Bennett, and Trey Ellett. The show runs through December 27

Rubicon Revises Programming Plans

The Theatre Company Takes Steps to Avoid Financial Crisis

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The economic downturn has been felt at virtually every arts organization in America, but Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre Company has taken a bigger hit than most. As Producing Artistic Director Karyl Lynn Burns noted, Ventura isn’t home to a lot of corporate headquarters, and the big-pocket donors the company has found inhabit hard-hit sectors of the economy, such as real estate and banking.

During the past weeks, the company has been doing the difficult work of reconciling its ambitious artistic agenda with the reality of decreased donations. Under the direction of its new chief financial officer, Patricia Baldwin, it has cut its annual budget from $3.2 million to $1.8 million. This required revamping affects its current season, substituting smaller-cast shows for such planned productions as The Miracle Worker and The Tempest.

“I’m extremely confident that we can find good material that is affordable, and that we can continue to produce that material at the standard of quality we have in the past,” said Artistic Director James O’Neil. “I’m not disparaging one- or two- or three- or four-person shows. There are many good ones. But it’s also important to tell stories of scope. Hopefully this period [of austerity] will not last too long.”

“Our priority this year is to reduce expenses while maintaining artistic quality and integrity,” said Burns, noting the board has agreed to a two-year plan. “We’re not raising ticket prices. Employees of other corporations are also taking salary cuts. We’re mission-driven; we want to keep theater affordable and accessible.”

She added, “Our production budget will be frozen for next year. We might do fewer shows, but they’ll be the most compelling, exciting shows we can do.”

The company has several hurdles to clear before it gets to next season, however. First, it has to raise enough money to keep the doors open between now and April, when its cash flow will turn positive (according to the projections of its new two-year plan). Then it needs to get through the current season with a reduced staff, which is down to the equivalent of 10 full-time employees—all of whom have taken pay cuts of 10-40 percent.

The company’s annual holiday show, A Rubicon Family Christmas, will go on as scheduled, running through December 27. The rest of the season (subscriptions and single tickets are now on sale at 667-2900 or rubicontheatre.org) looks like this:

Doubt (Jan. 30-Feb. 21): Jenny Sullivan directs John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a clash of wills between a priest and a nun. Two Rubicon veterans, Joseph Fuqua (Hamlet) and Robin Pearson Rose (All My Sons), play the lead roles.

Trying (Mar. 13-Apr. 4): Joanna McClelland Glass’s fact-based drama about the relationship between an elderly jurist and his young secretary, originally scheduled to run this past fall, will star Robin Gammell and Angela Goethals. Sullivan directs.

Crimes of the Heart (Apr. 24-May 16): Beth Henley’s dark comedy set in the Deep South, another Pulitzer Prize winner, will be directed by O’Neil.

The company will then present two short-run shows for current subscribers only. The first of these, In All Honesty, is a world premiere absurdist comedy written by Quinn Sosna-Spear, a 17-year-old Dos Pueblos High School student. The production, running June 2-13, will feature a group of Santa Barbara-based actors including Dan Gunther, Robert Lesser, and Nancy Nufer.

It will be followed September 1-12 by Address Unknown, a new adaptation by veteran director Moni Yakim of Kathrine Kressmann Taylor’s Holocaust-era novel. Plans call for the 2010-11 season to open in October with a staged reading of The Tempest.

Baldwin, who devised and is implementing the two-year economic plan, served as managing director of Santa Barbara’s Ensemble Theatre Company for a decade beginning in 1993, and then spent three years as Rubicon’s financial director. Burns, who nudged her out of retirement to guide the company through this difficult period, called Baldwin “a tough, savvy manager.” She is being assisted by consultants from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., who are providing advice free of charge as part of a program to support struggling regional theaters.

“Our ticket sales are very strong,” Burns reported. “Our renewal rate is still more than 80 percent, which is very good. Our customers are very loyal.” But like most theater companies, Rubicon gets only half its budget from ticket sales and other earned income; the remainder must come from grants and donations. In addition, the company has to gradually pay down its $1.2 million long-term debt, which it incurred when it bought its building, a former church on Main Street in downtown Ventura.

“It’s going to be tough for a while,” Burns said. “But we have a good plan, and we feel that if we share that with members of the community, they’ll feel confident about us and help us with some bridge funding.”








Best Of Nightlife & Entertainment

Phil Salazar, voted first place for this year’s best musician.


Band/Musical Artist

1st Place - Phil Salazar - (Photo by: GARYANDPIERRESILVA .COM Phil Salazar, voted first place for this year’s best musician, at the Sidecar
Restaurant in Ventura.)

2nd Place - The Shoemaker Brothers
3rd Place - Sound Effect


1st Place - Mary claudia Ramirez at 5th Street Steak
and Seafood, 231 W. Fifth St., Oxnard, 483-0200
2nd Place - Danny D’Auria at Paddy’s, 2 W. Main St., Ventura, 652-1071
3rd Place - Lynsey Ryan at Dargan’s, 593 E. Main St., Ventura, 648-3001

Cheap Date

1st Place - Regency Buenaventura 6, 1440 Eastman Ave., Ventura, 658-6544
2nd Place - Beach House Tacos, 668 Harbor Blvd., Ventura, 648-3177
3rd Place - The Beach

Club DJ

1st Place - J Scratch
2nd Place - Nick Dean
3rd Place - DJ Also


1st Place - Stickboy
2nd Place - Wynne Ellis
3rd Place - Travis Greer

Comedy Club

1st Place - Ventura Harbor Comedy Club, 1559 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, 644-1500
2nd Place - Ventura Improv Company, 34 N. Palm St., Ventura, 643-5701
3rd Place - W20 Lounge at Watermark on Main, 598 E. Main St., Ventura, 643-6800

Dance Club

1st Place - Paddy’s, 2 W. Main St., Ventura, 652-1071
2nd Place - The Tavern, 211 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura, 643-3264
3rd Place - Bombay Bar and Grill, 143 S. California St., 643-4404

Dance Troupe

1st Place - Emanon Dance Crew, Oxnard
2nd Place - Claddagh Irish Dancers, Ventura

Dive Bar

1st Place - Sans Souci, 21 S. Chestnut St., Ventura, 643-4539
2nd Place - Star Lounge, 343 E. Main St., Ventura, 648-4709
3rd Place - Rudder Room, 2929 Ocean Drive, Oxnard, 985-6096

Event DJ

1st Place - Bruce Barrios
2nd Place - Nick Dean
3rd Place - The Wedding Music DJs & SoCal Photo Lounge

Gay Bar

1st Place - Paddy’s, 2 W. Main St., Ventura, 652-1071
2nd Place - Blu Orkid, 76 S. Oak St., Ventura, 653-0003

Happy Hour

1st Place - Aloha Steakhouse, 364 S. California St., Ventura, 652-1799
2nd Place - Brophy Bros., 1559 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, 639-0865
3rd Place - Yolanda’s, 2753 E. Main St., Ventura, 643-2700; 86 E. Daily Drive, Camarillo, 389-9922; 1601 S. Victoria Ave., Oxnard, 985-1340; 590 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley, 306-9933


1st Place - Sans Souci, 21 S. Chestnut St., Ventura, 643-4539
2nd Place - Dargan’s, 593 E. Main St., Ventura, 648-3001
3rd Place - El Rey Cantina, 294 E. Main St., Ventura, 653-1111


1st place - Golden China, 760 S. Seaward Ave., Ventura, 652-0688     
2nd Place - La Dolce Vita, 740 S. B St., Oxnard, 486-6878
3rd Place - Outlaw’s Grill and Saloon, 2167 Pickwick Drive, Camarillo, 484-3691

Local Music Recording

1st Place TIE: Fables by 8Stops7 AND Self titled EP by Dirty Rice

Music Festival

1st Place - Ventura Hillsides Music Festival
2nd Place - Ventura Music Festival
3rd Place - Roadshow Revival: A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash

Music Venue (Large Concert)

1st Place - Majestic Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura, 653-0118
2nd Place - Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura, 648-3376
3rd Place - Libbey Bowl, Ojai, 646-3117

Music Venue (Small)

1st Place - Zoey’s Cafe, 185 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura, 652-1137
2nd Place - Green Art People, 140 N. Ventura Ave., 729-2361
3rd Place - W20 Lounge at Watermark, 598 E. Main St., Ventura, 643-6800


1st Place - Zoey’s Cafe, 185 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura, 652-1137
2nd Place - Golden China, 760 S. Seaward Ave., Ventura, 652-0688
3rd Place - Good Bar, 533 E. Main St., Ventura, 641-9951

Pool Hall

1st Place - Stiix Billiards, 2520 E. Main St., Ventura, 641-2020
2nd Place - The Q Club, 2362 N. Oxnard Blvd., Oxnard, 278-1231
3rd Place - Victoria Pub & Grill, 1413 S. Victoria Ave., suite F, Ventura, 650-0060

Radio Personality

1st Place - Stickboy, KVTA
2nd Place - Tom Spence, KVTA
3rd Place - Bill Frank, KVTA

Radio Station

1st Place - 1520 AM, KVTA
2nd Place - 100.7 KHAY
3rd Place - 88.3 KCLU

Recording Studio

1st Place - Castaway 7 Studios, 654-TAPE
2nd Place - Goldmine Recording Studios, 1393 Callens Road, Ventura, 644-8341
3rd Place - Brotheryn Studios, www.brotherynstudios.com

Singles Hang-Out

1st Place - W20 Lounge at Watermark on Main, 598 E. Main St., Ventura, 643-6800
2nd Place - The Tavern, 211 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura, 643-3264
3rd Place - Brendan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, 1755 E. Daily Drive, Camarillo, 383-4100

Sports Bar

1st Place - Cronies Sports Grill, 2855 Johnson Drive, Ventura, 650-6026; 370 N. Lantana St., Camarillo 482-5900; 2752 Cochran St., Simi Valley, 583-9999
2nd Place - Rookees, 419 E. Main St., Ventura, 648-6862
3rd Place - The Bench Warmer, 1855 E. Main St., Ventura, 643-4303

Theater Company

1st Place - Rubicon Theatre Company 1006 E. Main St., Ventura, 667-2900 
2nd Place - Ventura Improv 34 N. Palm St., Ventura, 643-5701 
3rd Place - Santa Paula Theater Company 125 S. Seventh St., Santa Paula, 525-4645

Theater Production

1st Place - Hello! My Baby, Rubicon Theatre Company
2nd Place - Gem of the Ocean, Rubicon Theatre Company

3rd Place - Cinderella, Ventura County Ballet   

Trivia Night

1st Place - Garman’s Restaurant and Irish Pub, 932 E. Main St., Santa Paula, 933-4600
2nd Place - Bernadette’s on Main, 701 E. Main St., Ventura, 643-6749
3rd Place - Paddy’s, 2 W. Main St., Ventura, 652-1071




Best revival theater

Insomniac Cinema
Insomniac Cinema at the Regency Buenaventura 6, 1440 Eastman Ave., Ventura, 658-6544, insomniaccinema.com

Founded in Westlake Village by local impresario Andrew Gualtieri in the summer of 2004, Insomniac Cinema has become Ventura County’s definitive source for the films people have come to know and love for decades, all shot on the big screen. Over the years, Gualtieri has taken the Insomniac experience to Los Angeles (at the now-shuttered Fairfax Theatre), Westwood (at the historic Village and Bruin Theatres), Pasadena, Agoura Hills and Las Vegas.

“I firmly believe that films should be shown on a big screen and whenever possible, on film. Movies bring us closer together,” Gualtieri asserts. And the films that bring people together are the classics of the pantheon: Casablanca. The Wizard of Oz. The Big Lebowski

Using criteria for selection that includes audience polls and his own sterling cinematic acumen, he has his own favorites — post-noir classics, such as Brick and Road to Perdition. When asked what films he’d screen if he could but hasn’t, he replies without hesitation, “The first titles that come to mind are the Star Wars films. I know they’d be fun and draw a crowd but they aren’t available.”

Now that theaters are changing their projection equipment to handle only digital prints, Insomniac feels the pressure to change with the times.

“With most theaters going to digital, the studios are slowly converting their library titles to this format,” Gualtieri says. “(Director) Christopher Nolan has said there is no equal or better to 35mm film, and I agree. I try to play film as often as possible, but as the 35mm film prints get older or more damaged from use, the studios aren’t going to strike new prints. Digital makes some titles easier to get if they’ve been converted, but if they haven’t, then I’m still stuck without some titles.” 

And how has the audience changed over the years he’s done Insomniac?

“The audience really hasn’t changed over the years. It’s always consisted of people that love movies,” Gualtieri says. “When the lights go down, everyone is there for the same reason: to be entertained.”

— David Cotner 

Best intimate folk  

Russ & Julie’s House Concerts

Hank Linderman and Jeff Larson, live at Russ & Julie’s House Concerts. 

Even though there are only 10 performances a year in their 75-seat capacity living room, Russ & Julie’s House Concerts in Oak Park have become renowned for the atmosphere and the intimacy of those performances. House concerts — small, private gatherings at which singer-songwriters experience the closeness of an audience — are a growing phenomenon, and for the past 15 years, even before Oak Park got its own ZIP code, Russ and Julie Paris have invited the fans to experience a very personal kind of music in the comfort of their home. 
It came from a real need, Russ says, to not “drive to a large venue, fight the crowds, and pay lots of money to see quality music.” After more than 160 shows, the format hasn’t changed, it’s only been streamlined, and demand and respect has only solidified in the wake of their devotion. All sorts of genres have appeared at Russ & Julie’s, including folk, bluegrass, jazz, rock, country, and even New Age, which the neighbors doubtlessly love.

“We do it for the love of the music,” Julie says. “There is so much great music being written and produced today that isn’t getting airplay.” 

All of the proceeds collected from the door go directly to the performers, which have included Jim Messina of Buffalo Springfield, Chris Hillman of The Byrds, Van Dyke Parks, singer and politician John Hall of Orleans, actor Ronny Cox, Marshall Crenshaw and the late Andrew Gold, singer of the hit “Lonely Boy.”

Many house concerts — including Russ & Julie’s — don’t advertise because of noise restrictions, so they keep things friendly. That’s how it should be when you’re in another person’s home.  And it’s the very idea of home that is the soul of this place that music built.

For the concert schedule, houseconcerts.us. For address and set times, e-mail rsvp@houseconcerts.us or call (818) 707-2179.

— David Cotner




A tale of two calendars

The yin and yang of local arts fundraising

By Michel Cicero 12/10/2009

Two calendars, two causes, both genders, all nude. Forget the puppies, astrology, Twilight and lighthouses calendars at the mall kiosk this year. Depending on your sexual preference (and other associated fetishes) there are but two choices (excluding the other locally focused calendars currently in stores): Hot Dames 2010 and Men of Ojai 2010.

Hot Dames, a product of Rubicon Theatre Company’s 

                                                      Photo by: Jeanne Tanner
Grande Dames fundraising auxiliary is a full-color racy spread featuring high profile mature women posing as characters from productions past wearing little more than a prop or two. Tastefully photographed by Jeanne Tanner, the women — who include former deputy mayor Rosa Lee Measures, arts patron Sandra Laby and community icon Helen Yunker — bared all to raise money for the award-winning theatre company.

Brave as it would appear for women of a certain age to show their stuff, Seana Sesma, owner of The Wine Rack in Ventura, says all who participated are hams at heart, spending hundreds of dollars in a $20 per ticket drawing, for a chance to pose for the calendar.

That’s not to say the experience was without its challenges. “The biggest thing was letting go and being OK,” says Sesma. One of the women recently battled breast cancer and wanted women to know you can still be beautiful naked, post-mastectomy. Another woman, at 70 seized the opportunity to purchase her first thong undergarment. Helen Yunker, 88 years old and a fixture at Ventura City Council meetings for more than a decade, let down her hair for the occasion to “portray” Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire.

Sandra Laby, who posed as Dulcinea from Man of La Mancha said she was “overjoyed” when plans for the “Calendar Girls” project was announced at a Grande Dames meeting. In retrospect, Laby, who says she would do almost anything for the Rubicon, would have preferred to have done the shoot with a drink in her belly. “It was a little scary, but the feelings that all of us had actually helped us through the group pictures. We could all feel the uneasiness that we all shared. We did lots of laughing almost like a group of school children.”

Rosa Lee Measures agreed that the shared experience was bonding. “It has been a lot of fun and has created an amazing camaraderie among a group of great volunteers,” she said.

While the women of the Rubicon withstood the bright lights of the stage sans apparel, the Men of Ojai endured elements with nary a prop to benefit arts education for children in Ojai. The Men of Ojai calendar, first created in 2007, is the brainchild of theater instructor Demetri Corbin, who originally tossed the idea around as a joke. “I started asking friends if they’d pose nude for a good cause, and people said yes,” he mused. Corbin assembled a group of female friends officially and affectionately known as the Council of Fabulousness to judge the male calendar contenders. The men were expected to have strong connections to the community and asked to give a personal definition of freedom. The result was a dozen or so men ranging in age and ethnicity but sharing a quality that Grande Dame Seanna Sesma described as “delicious.” Photographed in black and white by Attasalina Dews and Bobbi Bennett, the images are provocative and artistic, showing the men on location in and around Ojai doing what they do in their “free” time.

Nudity is not unheard of in Ojai where hot springs and other natural attractions invite it, but according to Corbin, once upon a time, it was much more public. “Everyone was nude — little kids, old people.” Even the statue at Libbey Bowl, which has since been replaced, was nude. Sometime in the 80s, he says, the attitude changed and a more buttoned up mentality took over the bucolic valley.

Corbin’s hope is that the calendar will raise much needed funds for arts education in Ojai but he’d also like it to raise a few, um, eyebrows.    

The Hot Dames calendar is available for $25 at the Rubicon Theatre and the Wine Rack in Ventura. The women will be signing calendars at the Wine Rack on Wednesday, Dec. 16 from 6:30-8 p.m. The Men of Ojai calendar is available for $25 at Soultonic in Ventura, at various stores in Ojai and at www.menofojai.com



RTC was featured as the cover story for the 11/8/07 Ventura County Reporter!




Drama queens, kings of comedy and everything
The Rubicon celebrates 10 years of introducing high-quality theater to Ventura


Linda Purl as Blanche and Eric Lange as Mitch 
in Rubicon Theatre Company’s production of 
A Streetcar Named Desire in 2003.


he Rubicon Theatre Company has always depended on the kindness of strangers —especially in the beginning. In those days, as Ventura’s first and, as it currently stands, only professional theater troupe, the fledgling organization often relied on serendipity to solve the myriad disasters that would occasionally befall them. Like, say, the set for the first play at their new home falling apart.

“We transported this kitchen set in a friend’s truck from L.A. We were two days away from opening, and all the tile had broken in transport,” says artistic director and co-founder Karyl Lynn Burns, who starred in Shirley Valentine, the Rubicon’s inaugural production at the converted church on the corner of Main and Laurel streets that serves as their primary playhouse. “There was a man who came and said, ‘I read an article and had a dream that I’m supposed to help you.’ I said, ‘Great. What do you want to do?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t really know.’ I said, ‘Well, when you think of what it is, let me know. Here’s my number.’ He handed me his card, and it said Old World Tile.” Her eyes lit up. “So he replaced and repaired the tile. I said, ‘Were you supposed to do anything else?’ And he said, ‘No, I think that’s it.’

“Those kinds of things happened all the time,” Burns continues. “Someone would show up at the moment when we needed people to go get props or to sew curtains — all the curtains were sewn by a volunteer who just turned up. Or someone showed up who knew how to work the ticketing system. There were so many miracles.”

Nowadays, of course, those miracles aren’t needed quite as much. Preparing to kick off their 10th season on Nov. 15, the Rubicon is now one of Ventura’s biggest cultural cornerstones, an institution which, along with the Century 10 movie theater, helped spark Downtown’s renaissance in the late 1990s. Financially, its contribution to the region has been significant: According to a recent regional economic impact report, over the past nine years the company has brought $26 million into the community and created more than 600 full-time jobs. It is a vital part of the city’s tourism base — more than a quarter of its regular audience is from outside the county. Artistically, however, is where the Rubicon has given back the most. Live theater existed in Ventura prior to the group’s formation, but rarely of the caliber it has presented since. In its first decade, the company has attracted several major names, including Jack Lemmon, who gave his final stage performance in 2000’s Love Letters, John Ritter and Larry Hagman; won six Los Angeles Alliance Ovation Awards, 12 Robby Awards and an NAACP Theatre Award; amassed a 3,000 person season subscriber list; and now works with an annual operating budget of $3.3 million.

All of this isn’t to say the Rubicon no longer looks for help from its friends. For Burns and her husband, co-founder James O’Neil, the company remains a collaborative project between the performers and the public, one which owes as much to the local tile layers as it does to the world renowned actors who have graced its stage.

Burns and O’Neil moved to Ventura from Los Angeles in 1998, both boasting stacked résumés — he as a producer, director and actor, she as an actress and chief executive officer of an arts management and marketing firm. “We had thought over the years that we had wanted to start a theater at some point,” O’Neil says. “We both had the artistic experience and also the administrative experience. We thought we could bring something to both sides, but we just hadn’t found the right place.” What they found in Ventura was a city with a burgeoning arts scene but a void when it came to theater. “There was no professional theater in the whole history of Ventura — 150 years. The arts were starting to come forward, so we thought, ‘Maybe this is it.’ ”

In order to build up an audience which they hoped would eventually lead them to a permanent venue, Burns and O’Neil decided to produce plays at a variety of locations around town. For their first presentation, O’Neil contacted Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson, with whom he had co-starred in the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, to perform three nights of the musical at the Ventura Theater. All three performances sold out. A matinee run of Darrow, a one-man show about famed lawyer and civil rights pioneer Clarence Darrow, at the county courthouse and performances of Romeo & Juliet at 10 area high schools followed. By the time it came to do Shirley Valentine, the congregation that had occupied the church on Main and Laurel merged with another on the eastside, leaving the building vacant. With the blessing of the Ventura City Council, the Rubicon converted the church into the Laurel Theatre in 1999; five years later, the company launched a successful fundraising campaign to purchase the property.

Also in 1999, the Rubicon established a 58-member Board of Directors, a 100-member volunteer auxiliary called the Grandes Dames (which has since expanded to 300) and developed a mission statement: “To present innovative, first-rate professional theatrical productions, festivals, special events and education programs for the enrichment, entertainment, and education of the region’s residents and visitors.” And to achieve those goals, the Rubicon dedicated itself to doing what no other theater company in Ventura had up to that point: paying the artists.

“You can have extraordinarily high-quality community theater where people aren’t paid, too,” Burns says. “But it goes back to that beginning vision of being nurturing and supportive of artists. We probably have a bias, that if you can devote time to it, which just means because you’re paid, hopefully you can focus more time and energy on the rehearsal process.”

Adds O’Neil, “If it’s your hobby, it’s one thing — if it’s your job, it’s another.”

O’Neil says it took a few years for the Rubicon to begin drawing a consistent crowd. In between was a period spent acclimating Ventura to the concept of live theater. While part of the initial Rubicon audience was made up of people who would regularly travel as far as Los Angeles to see a play, others didn’t even know how to behave at one — Burns recalls a moment during Shirley Valentine when she could hear two audience members giggling and crunching Doritos as if they were watching television on their couch at home. But she believes the combination of theater aficionados and novices gave those early performances a special energy.

“About half the audience had a level of sophistication about theater but had not ever had a professional theater in their backyard. They were really excited because they had it here at home for the first time. And the other half of the audience had never been to the theater,” Burns says. “It started at a high pitch of excitement because you had those two types of audiences feeding off each other. The sophisticated audiences were sitting next to people for whom the light bulb is going off.”

As the years have passed, the Rubicon has entertained an estimated 220,000-plus patrons, roughly 69 percent of whom live in Ventura County. Each season has featured a wide-ranging selection of performances, from classic American dramas such as A Streetcar Named Desire, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and All My Sons to iconic musicals including Man of La Mancha and The Rainmaker to world premieres by up-and-coming playwrights.

The upcoming schedule for the 10th season is typically diverse. It begins with the Pulitzer Prize-winning You Can’t Take It With You, a 1930s screwball comedy centered around the exploits of an eccentric family. In January, the theater presents R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Unknown, a one-man show focusing on the titular Renaissance man and early environmentalist. William Inge’s Bus Stop fills the “classic” category, while Picasso at the Lapin Agile, written by Steve Martin and starring comedian Paul Provenza, about a fictionalized meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein in a Parisian bistro, is the oddity. In July, O’Neil directs the premiere of The Spin Cycle, from CSI co-producer David Rambo. The season ends with the Miklos Laszlo musical comedy She Loves Me.

Even after 10 years, Burns and O’Neil admit there is much in the vast lexicon of world theater the Rubicon has yet to tackle. To continue doing so requires money, of course, and although the nonprofit has been successful in securing funding, resources for the arts are in increasingly short supply. Government grants have dwindled since Sept. 11, 2001. While more than half their budget comes courtesy of private donors, corporate donations have been low. If the Rubicon were a for-profit organization, O’Neil estimates they would have lost $20 million by now.

“Another way of saying it is we’d probably have to charge $125 to $150 a ticket just to be here,” he says.

Burns says the group is in the process of re-examining their current business model and finding ways to pave new revenue streams. To open more seats for ticket sales, they have discussed expanding to a second venue, possibly as an anchor to Camarillo’s planned revival of its old town area. But Burns and O’Neil have never considered leaving the Laurel Theatre, nor the city that made it possible for them to realize their dream, and which they have played a role in making what it is today.

“Anybody who comes to Ventura now who was here 10 years ago will say this is a completely different place,” Burns says. “It’s changing rapidly, and we’d like to think we were part of that.” 

For more information on the Rubicon Theatre Company, visit www.rubicontheatre.org.





UPDATE ON RTC - 3/16/03:

Just found this latest RTC accomplishment on VCReporter.com today:

VCReporter.com – Best of Ventura County


 Under the "Nightlife" Section:

Best place to see a play
For about the 412th year in a row, you picked downtown Ventura’s Laurel Theatre as the county’s best place to indulge in matters theatrical. And you made a decent choice at that—the former Main Street church, which seats about 220, offers excellent access to the action and is conveniently located to boot. It cuts a spiffy figure on the exterior too, thanks to last year’s distinctive two-tone makeover.
Just missed: Oxnard Performing Arts Center

Best theater company
Speaking of plays: The Rubicon Theatre Company (the Laurel’s flagship collective) is your pick for best theater company as well. The group, which begins its fifth season this month, does our county proud—in its short history, it’s become a major regional performing arts concern, offering outreach programs in the schools and professional seasons that generate a boatload of favorable reviews (sometimes even from L.A.).
Just missed: The Livery

(Congrats AGAIN Guys!)




Karyl Lynn and Jim were featured on the cover, and  in the October, 2006 issue of Ventana Monthly Magazine!!! See the article below - CONGRATULATIONS, YET AGAIN GUYS!!!


Trailblazing on the Tightrope

The Rubicon Theatre Company’s resident lovebirds, James O’Neil and Karyl Lynn Burns, are ready to cross the Rubicon — again

By Stacey Wiebe

Artist rendering of the Rubicon Theater. Painting by Ruth Ellen Hoag.



ou’d never guess it to look at them — relaxing comfortably on the plush leather furniture of a warm upstairs office at the Rubicon Theatre Company — but James O’Neil and Karyl Lynn Burns are not at all unlike Julius Caesar.

It’s true that neither is, has been or likely will ever be a famous Roman dictator, that neither has suffered an assassination plot and will probably never utter the words “Et tu, Brute?” with any seriousness (save for appearances in Julius Caesar), but the married couple and co-theater-owners could probably venture a pretty good guess as to what Caesar was thinking as he was about to cross the Rubicon River into Rome, something like, “It’s sink or swim time, buddy — so you’d better swim.”

It is said that, in 49 B.C., having made the decision to take the final plunge, Caesar walked into the waters of the Rubicon and said, “The die is cast” — there’s no turning back now. Since then, the phrase “Crossing the Rubicon” has come to signify making an irreversible choice and, as Burns and O’Neil say, “taking a risk, moving forward with tenacity and commitment.”

It makes sense, then, that risk-taking, tenacity and commitment is what the Rubicon Theatre Company is all about.

And, with Dale Wasserman’s Man of La Mancha — easily the theater’s biggest show to date — just days from opening, Burns and O’Neil have their hands more than full with that whole “crossing the Rubicon” thing. “It is the most astounding collection of actors,” O’Neil says of the La Mancha cast, which is headed up by Ted Neeley (Broadway and film versions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Rubicon’s Murder in the First) and Linda Purl (Getting and Spending and Tom Sawyer on Broadway, and Rubicon’s Streetcar Named Desire). “It will blow the roof off the theater.”

“Just the voices will blow the roof off the theater,” Burns adds with an infectious grin.

“It’s also just a massive show,” says O’Neil, who’s just as friendly, but a little more thoughtfully quiet, than his intelligently affable wife. With O’Neil, you can almost hear the wheels turning between his ears. While Burns starred last season as the disarming Shirley Valentine, O’Neil made a spooky appearance in The Turn of the Screw. With so much in common but gifted with unique talents, it’s easy to see why the dynamic duo make a winning team or, in the case of the Rubicon’s 2006-2007 season, a successful balancing act.

Appropriately titled, “Balancing Acts” is the theme for the upcoming seven-production season, which will offer three world premieres, one California premiere and three classics. The current season closes with La Mancha, and the new season opens Nov. 30 with the world premiere of Back Home Again: A John Denver Holiday.

“We thought ‘Balancing Acts’ for several reasons,” Burns says. “When we select a season, we try to find a balance because we’re the only indigenous non profit, professional theater company here and we have a wide range of people to appeal to …

“At this time in the world, it’s important to find the time to focus on our souls — to set aside time every month to reflect and relax and, hopefully, think deeply about the state of the world and our lives … The theater is a place where people of different religious beliefs, ages and backgrounds sit together in the dark.”

Selecting a season that offers something to all people is a balancing act for the couple, a balancing act that has changed since the theater was founded in 1998. While Burns and O’Neil strive to design seasons that push the envelope and take major risks, that startle and make audiences think, they also strive to offer theater that’s accessible to families and audiences with a conservative bent. And as the pair continues to build trust in the community, they continue to take greater risks.

“We have been really conscious over the years about what we think we can do — and when,” O’Neil says. “If you have developed a certain trust, you feel like you can push it in one direction or another, but it’s not about one single show or one season. It’s about a collection of work over time, and it’s a given that some people aren’t going to like something.”

“You want people to feel safe,” Burns adds, “and you also want to astonish and delight and challenge them.”

Some of the couple’s choices have had much to do with current events. Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, for instance, was presented shortly before war in Iraq broke out. Likewise, Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy was produced at the time of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

In the coming season, Back Home Again: A John Denver Holiday, a family-friendly musical review that will include everything from John Denver songs to Kermit the Frog, will be followed by the world premiere of the musical A Time for Love — just in time for Valentine’s Day. The musical tells the story of love over time, as the two characters come together, fall in love and grow apart as they strive to work and raise children in the modern world.

Next up is the California premiere of By the Waters of Babylon, a sweet, poetic show that follows the friendship blossoming between Arturo, a gardener in exile from his native Cuba, and Catherine, the widow of a Texas college professor who is being ostracized by her community. As Arturo tends Catherine’s neglected garden, their relationships grows in unexpected ways.

Babylon will be followed by the great Shakespearean tragedy, very possibly the tragedy to end all tragedies: Hamlet. The brooding prince of Denmark will be portrayed by Joseph Fuqua, who has made several appearances at the Rubicon (most recently in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Tuesdays with Morrie).

“Joseph has done so many things for us that have been fantastic and we really think of him as our first company member,” says O’Neil of his close friend and colleague, explaining why Hamlet — the role to end all roles, considered a rite of passage by actors from all over the world — will be played, for the first time, by Fuqua. “It was Joseph, really. We had the opportunity to make that happen for him, and we did it.”

O’Neil will take on the role of Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, the man who marries Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, after his father’s untimely death. As anyone familiar with the play —arguably the best ever written — knows, Hamlet is tasked with killing Claudius by the ghost of his father. And so the real drama begins …

To hear O’Neil and Burns describe the upcoming season and the remarkable thought they invested into making it one with something for everyone is to see clearly that they were meant to found their own theater company. It stands to reason that the passion the pair has for theater and for acting will be easily parlayed into O’Neil’s turn as the questionable Claudius.

“I don’t know how I feel about playing Claudius yet because I haven’t really examined the role from the inside,” O’Neil says, with characteristic thoughtfulness, “but I am very excited we’re doing that play.”

The production of Hamlet will be the second Shakespearean production (the first was Romeo and Juliet) at the Rubicon since the theater opened. Few productions with large casts are performed frequently, Burns and O’Neil explain, because it is simply too expensive — and Shakespeare always wove together a gaggle of characters.

Hamlet will be followed by the classic Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Children of a Lesser God, the story of James Leeds — a professor at a college for the deaf — and the beautiful, willful student with whom he falls in love. Though he encourages her to learn to lip read, Sarah is determined to live life on her own terms.

After that is the world premiere Bad Apples, a wacky comedy wholly unlike the intense drama of Children of a Lesser God. Developed in the Rubicon’s “Plays in Progress” program (through which new plays are seen by audiences who provide feedback) and written by Mark Stein — author of the brilliant Mating Dance of the Werewolf — Apples is the story of two seemingly innocuous bridge-playing women who are in cahoots to help a “cry baby ex-con” break his girl out of prison.

The season will wrap with the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Delicate Balance, an electrifying and thought-provoking drama about boundaries and responsibility, to be directed by O’Neil. “It really pushes the limits of what we think are proper attitudes about family and friends,” says O’Neil, who adds that he was speechless after he saw the play some years ago.

A Delicate Balance is the story of a Connecticut couple dealing with the return of their divorced daughter and an alcoholic sister who are surprised when their neighbors, another couple, show up and ask if they can stay — forever. The only explanation that the couple provides is that they are inexplicably “afraid.” “It’s really about the bounds of friendship,” Burns says, “It asks the question, ‘What do we really owe each other?’ ”

With another season nearly underway, O’Neil and Burns — who’ve been married 20 years and were engaged three months after they met while performing in a Santa Barbara production of Man of La Mancha — are ready to continue plumbing the depths of the human heart.

They had no way of knowing, when they crossed the Rubicon for the first time by moving to Ventura, that the likes of Jack Lemmon, John Ritter — who both made their final stage appearances at the Rubicon — Joel Grey, David Birney, Ed Asner, Harold Gould, Stacy Keach, Jeff Kober, Bonnie Franklin, Jayne Meadows, Stephanie and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Michael Learned, Jenny Sullivan and so many others would grace their stage. Or that 200,000 people would be there to see their 53 productions to date.

“I’ve always known I wanted to do this,” Burns says. “I was always the little kid who did shows in the basement...”



Here's a link from ATW (American Theater Web) full of RTC articles and reviews - current and past:


ATW Clippings for  Rubicon Theatre Company
      Next -->>
Outdated but well executed
  -   Los Angeles Times, 8/26/2005
Review: 'Shirley Valentine'
Rubicon Theater Company co-founder Karyl Lynn Burns has discovered her ideal vehicle in the 1988 one-character legiter ...

  -   Variety, 8/24/2005
He can't resist animal attraction
A Minnesota cop follows his instinct and falls for a wolfwoman in the offbeat 'Mating Dance of the Werewolf' at Rubicon Theatre.

  -   Los Angeles Times, 5/11/2005
Review: 'Songs for a New World'
  -   Variety, 3/22/2005
Benson and Manough to Star in Rubicon's 'Songs for a New World'
  -   Playbill, 2/1/2005
A charming tale from such 'Fools'
  -   Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2004
A striking view of human frailty
,font size="1">Rubicon Theatre stages Tennessee Williams' 'The Night of the Iguana' with great clarity and power.

  -   Los Angeles Times, 10/20/2004
A New Stage in Their Kinship
TV vets Stephanie Zimbalist and her dad, Efrem Jr., are sharing more than memories these days

  -   Los Angeles Times, 10/13/2004
Pathos at Heart of BeckettFest
Tribute to existential works of Samuel Beckett traces humanness with scope.

  -   Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2004
Get Into the Existential Flow of Rubicon's 'Godot'
  -   Los Angeles Daily News, 9/17/2004
Beckett's Vision Still Matters
Ventura's Rubicon Theatre enlisted German director Walter Asmus to helm its revival of "Godot." The result here is nothing short of a revelation.

  -   Los Angeles Times, 9/8/2004
Depth and Talent: 'Gimmicks' Work
  -   Los Angeles Times, 7/28/2004
Gaines Joins 'Side by Side by Sondheim'; McClanahan, Bergen and McKechnie Guest Narrators
  -   Playbill, 6/24/2004
A Risky Venture in Ventura
Establishing Rubicon, the city's first theater company, in a church six years ago took quite a leap of faith....

  -   Los Angeles Times, 6/12/2004
Talented Actors Drive 'Daisy'
Subtle, engaging performances by Michael Learned and other members of the Rubicon Theatre cast lend the right touch.

  -   Los Angeles Times, 4/13/2004
Tappan, Ralston and Engel Set for California 'Side by Side by Sondheim'
  -   Playbill, 4/1/2004
A True Cast of Characters
Flesh-and-blood people inhabit the Rubicon staging of Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest.'

  -   Los Angeles Times, 3/3/2004
Manners? Oh, That's a Laugh
Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" in Ventura.

  -   Los Angeles Times, 2/26/2004
'All My Sons': Flawed Man, Great Play
  -   Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2003
Friendship at Work-of-Art
  -   Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2003
Beyond the Icons to the Soul of 'Streetcar'
  -   Los Angeles Times, 4/30/2003
Dancing as Fast as They Can
  -   Los Angeles Times, 3/5/2003
Robert Morse Returns to Capote in L.A. 'Christmas Memory' Dec. 10
  -   Playbill, 12/16/2002
Stars Shine on Theater Troupe
  -   Los Angeles Times, 12/9/2002
Shows WIll Go On, Thanks to a Supporting Cast of 340
  -   Los Angeles Times, 10/1/2002
Nostalgia Glows in 'Tintypes'
  -   Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2002
Teddy Roosevelt Sings: L.A.'s Rubicon Revives 'Tintypes' Sept. 21-Oct. 20
  -   Playbill, 9/21/2002
Joel Grey Hosts Larry Hagman Benefit for L.A.'s Rubicon Theatre Sept. 14
  -   Playbill, 9/14/2002
L.A's Rubicon Has Purl 'Streetcar', Thomas and Davis 'Art' in 2002-2003
  -   Playbill, 8/27/2002
 PLEASE NOTE: Many papers move their articles and stories. All links may not be available.





UPDATE:  6/13/04

Los Angeles Times' Calendar Section featured a wonderful article on RTC on Sunday, June 13, 2004:


A risky venture in Ventura


Behind The Scenes

Owners Karyl Lynn Burns and husband James O’Neil and the theater’s managing director, Norbert Tan, right, are presiding over a renovation plan that includes more challenging productions.
(Stephen Osman / LAT)

Establishing Rubicon, the city's first theater company, in a church six years ago took quite a leap of faith. Now the husband-and-wife artistic directors are risking it again.


By Don Shirley, Times Staff Writer


After Julius Caesar's forces crossed the Rubicon River en route to Rome, there was no turning back. "Crossing the Rubicon" became a way to describe a risky but irrevocable decision.

When the Rubicon Theatre Company started in 1998, founders Karyl Lynn Burns and James O'Neil chose the name Rubicon to affirm the value of taking risks. And certainly this married couple's decision to build the first professional theater company in Ventura entailed some risk.

"Everything was a risk at the beginning, because the audience hadn't experienced anything," O'Neil says.

Burns doesn't completely agree, saying some Ventura residents saw and even financially supported professional theater in Santa Barbara or Los Angeles in the pre-Rubicon days. Yet she acknowledges that Rubicon had to educate some audience members about certain theatrical basics. When the group proposed taking a touring version of "Romeo and Juliet" to schools, one vice principal told Burns that the gig was OK "if you take out all the violence."


Playing it with passion

Linda Purl gives a harrowing performance as Blanche DuBois and Tom Astor is refreshingly complex as Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire” in Ventura.
(Rubicon Theatre Company)


'J for J’

In fall 2001, the Rubicon presented the premiere of Jenny Sullivan’s play, which starred the late John Ritter with Sullivan
(Rubicon Theatre Company)

n this context, it wasn't too surprising that the Rubicon programming in the company's first five years seldom seemed risky. The play titles were usually familiar, and the casting of such well- known actors as Linda Purl, Stephanie Zimbalist, Joe Spano and Harold Gould provided box-office insurance.

When the company presented its first full production of a new play, "Murder in the First," in 2000, the cast included Larry Hagman, and the director was his former "Dallas" costar Linda Gray. John Ritter starred in the next new play, "J for J."

        Treading the boards for the Rubicon

Keeping The Faith

The pews are being replaced, but Burns expects the former church to retain its spiritual character: “Theater is a sacred experience.” The Ventura-area community's positive response to the company's past productions enabled the group to purchase the former church property that had been its home, renaming it the Laurel.

(Bob Carey / LAT)

The Rubicon, which occupies a former church now known as the Laurel, probably could have comfortably rested on its laurels for at least a few more years without making changes. But change is in the air.

The opportunity to buy the Laurel arose last year, and the company closed escrow this month on the $1.3-million purchase. The Laurel will undergo a makeover in the coming months. Church pews will be replaced by theater seats and the balcony will be expanded, raising capacity from 210 to about 280.

Behind the scenes, the staff has grown from just Burns and O'Neil to 15 people. Rubicon will take its summer production of "Side by Side by Sondheim" to the Orange County Performing Arts Center in September and has launched a co-producing partnership with Manitoba Theatre Center in Winnipeg.

The programming looks more adventurous too.

A festival devoted to Samuel Beckett -- no one's idea of a summer stock favorite -- opens in September, revolving around "Waiting for Godot," directed by Walter Asmus, who staged an acclaimed "Godot" for the Gate Theatre of Dublin (seen at the Freud Playhouse in 2000).

Jon Lawrence Rivera will create a coffeehouse configuration throughout the Laurel for Jason Robert Brown's relatively obscure revue "Songs for a New World," which he also staged at Los Angeles Theatre Center last year.

A premiere co-production (with the Manitoba company) of Mark Stein's "Mating Dance of the Werewolf" is scheduled for next year. The latter will be accompanied by a warning of "adult themes, strong language and graphic sexual content" and will feature the Rubicon's first nudity, O'Neil says.

The eclecticism of the programming is both a choice and a duty. "It's more fulfilling artistically to jump around," Burns says. But it also meets the needs of a community with only one professional theater: "If we don't do an accessible comedy, we're not providing a point of entry for people who haven't been to the theater. If we don't do classics, students might only read them, not see them." And now, after a few years of comedies and classics, "if we don't offer edgy new plays, we're not stretching the audience." The biggest question now facing the Rubicon is, in the words of Burns, "How do we stabilize to ensure that the Rubicon is here for future generations without losing the heart of the work and the commitment to the community?"

Some of the Rubicon's homespun charm is that it is housed in a building that was a church from 1923 to 1998 -- most recently Pentecostal.

Defying Gravity"
Stephanie Zimbalist starred as Teacher last year in the biggest- budgeted show in Rubicon history, due in part to its aerial production elements 
(Rod Lathim)

"Boy, it's going to be a sad day when the pews go," says Zimbalist, who has appeared in "The Rainmaker," "Dancing at Lughnasa" and "Defying Gravity" at the Rubicon and will star in "Night of the Iguana" in the fall. The building has "a very deep, spiritual-based feeling."

Besides the pews, the building's history is reflected in stained glass and in a baptismal font that can come in handy when onstage plumbing is needed.

O'Neil first acted in a Santa Barbara Pentecostal church at age 15. He had offered advice to his mother as she was conducting auditions for the Christmas pageant and wound up playing a father who tells the nativity story to his daughter.

"Theater is a sacred experience," says Burns, who grew up in Overland Park, Kan. "The roots of it are based in some sort of spiritual expression."

Pews or no pews, she says, "I believe we'll never lose that." However, as a practical matter, the pews aren't holding up well. And they diminish the capacity of the auditorium, she says.

The challenges of growth go beyond the matter of pews, of course. Spano, who has appeared at the Rubicon in two plays and will be in "Waiting for Godot" in September, says the Rubicon reminds him of the early years of Berkeley Repertory Theatre, which he helped found.

The Rubicon, he says, is "outside the vortex of Hollywood....You're working for a whole community that supports the theater and you're an integral part of it. Now that they're buying the building, there is always a danger that the institution becomes more important than the productions. That happened at Berkeley for a while."

However, he adds, "I don't see them going wrong" at the Rubicon.



The A.R. Gurney work, starring Joe Spano and Kristi Lynes, was popular enough at the Rubicon in summer 2002 that it was revived the following summer. It holds the record at Rubicon for most tickets sold.

(Tim Swope)

Purl, star of "Streetcar" and "The Little Foxes" at the Rubicon, points to Burns and O'Neil as the key to the company's future. "Everything they earn is up on the stage," she says. "It's an efficient, no-frills theater." The Rubicon's annual budget in 2003- 04 was $2 million, of which 45% was earned and 55% contributed income. Managing director Norbert Tan, who joined the company last year after an arts management fellowship at the Kennedy Center in Washington, says the absence of professional competition in Ventura County makes fundraising relatively easy, compared with L.A.. But it also requires orienting donors to the needs of professional theater.

A corps of 300 volunteers, known as "Grandes Dames," provides essential services, even as the theater adds more professional staff. In the early days, Burns says, "there were too many crazy moments where we would not have been there the next day if one volunteer hadn't done something." For example, in the transport of the set that was to be used in the company's first show at the Laurel, "Shirley Valentine," some of the tiles broke. Without knowing anything about the problem, a man walked in off the street and said he had a dream that he should offer his services to the town's new theater company. It turned out he ran a tile company -- and he fixed the tiles for no charge.

Buying the Laurel, Tan says, is a statement to the Ventura community that has been so supportive. "We're here permanently," he says. "We have roots. We buy lumber at the store down the street. We're giving them the security that we'll be around" -- that, in fact, the Rubicon has been crossed.


'Lady MacBeth Sings the Blues'

The solo musical production conceived by Amanda McBroom and Joel Silberman, which stars McBroom as a modern woman who consults Shakespeare’s female characters for guidance, is the Rubicon’s current production and scheduled to run through July 11.

(Christopher Vore)




UPDATE 9/5/03

The LA Times printed the article below on LATimes.com on 9/5/03:


September 5, 2003

Theater Troupe Reaches New Stage
* Ventura's Rubicon company hopes to raise enough money to buy its longtime home, the Laurel, listed at $1.5 million.

By Suzie St. John, Special to The Times

Norbert Tan knew his job as managing director of the Rubicon Theatre Company would be challenging. What he didn't know was that his first challenge was going to involve saving the only home the 5-year-old nonprofit group has ever known.

Tan, who moved to Ventura from Washington, D.C., this summer, said it came as a shock when owner Doug Halter announced he was selling the Laurel Theatre for $1.5 million.

At 10,000 square feet, the building houses 16 offices, a 200-seat theater and a rehearsal hall.

Rubicon occupies more than half the offices and is viewing the impending sale as an opportunity to expand further.

"We were surprised, but truthfully, the timing couldn't be more perfect," Tan said. "We are bursting at the seams right now, and we are expanding our season from five to seven shows starting in October.

"Our plan is to buy the building ourselves. That way, we can control our own destiny. We would be more in control of renting out the theater when we are dark; can put together a schedule for other arts or nonprofits that need to rent space; and we can earn more revenue by renting out the theater for events."

The former church at 1006 E. Main St. was purchased by Halter and business partner Joe Murray in 1999 for $400,000.

The pair invested another $400,000 in improvements and renovations that included building a stage, upgrading the plumbing, installing a new electrical system and replacing windows.

The building, which was built in 1905, still has some of its original stained leaded-glass windows.

Tan believes Rubicon can raise the funds necessary to purchase it.

"If we had to raise $15 [million] or $20 million, that would be out of our reach, but at $1.5 [million], it's very reasonable and very doable," Tan said.

"It helps that the product is quality and the capacity for giving is tremendous."

Halter would like to see Rubicon purchase the theater.

"I would love for Rubicon to buy it, and I'm willing to help in any way I can," Halter said.

"We probably could have asked $2.5 million, but we priced it below market because I wanted to keep it in the arts, if possible. I believe cultural arts are an absolute necessity for a healthy community."

A longtime supporter and promoter of the arts in Ventura, Halter said he decided to sell the theater for two reasons.

The first is the cost of the improvements the building still needs.

"We wanted to put in new seats, add restrooms at the theater level and upgrade the lobby and the entrance, but we don't have the wherewithal to do all of that," Halter said.

The second reason is more personal.

"I've had a lot of deaths in my family in the past year, and because of the inheritance tax, family members are having to sell some land in the Santa Cruz Mountains," Halter said. "That land is very special to me, and I want to keep it in my family. I'm lucky that I have the resources to do that."

Halter added that his plans did not include moving to the mountains.

"I love Ventura and don't ever see myself leaving," said Halter, whose plans do include running for City Council at some point in the future.

While Rubicon formulates its plan for raising money, Halter's realtor, Bill Duston of Coldwell Banker, is continuing to show the property.

"I know Doug's first choice would be for Rubicon to buy it, but if they don't, he really wants someone who will not only take the theater to the next level but also maintain the historical integrity of the building," Duston said.

City Councilman Jim Monahan said he hoped that Rubicon could remain at the Laurel.

"That's been the foundation, the bedrock, of performing arts in Ventura," Monahan said. "That group has brought a high level of professionalism to this area, and it would be a considerable loss to see them go."

If Rubicon does not buy the building, the new owners will be contractually bound to honor the theater group's lease for 12 months.

But Tan doesn't see that happening.

"We're ready to take that next step," Tan said. "We've moved from being a fledgling operation to being a professional equity company with a $2-million operating budget. Our big push starts now."

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives.
LATSIClick here for article licensing and reprint options

Copyright 2003 Los Angeles Times











UPDATE:  5/16/04

Hey Everyone!  GUESS who attended the Driving Miss Daisy Gala on 4/10/04???  Check out the pictures below!  Unfortunately, I can't tell you is in all of these pictures with him, but doesn't he look wonderful?


Teddie with Steve & Cynde Magidson

With Chris Reynnolds

Photos courtesy of Steve & Cynde Magidson (steve_magidson@consultant.com) and RTC.

UPDATE:  4/19/04:

Today I received this great news via e-mail from Karyl Lynn:

Critically Acclaimed Production of Driving Miss Daisy Featuring Emmy® Award-Winning Actress Michael Learned Extends Run at Rubicon Theatre


Ventura, California  – Rubicon Theatre Company’s critically acclaimed production of Alfred Urhy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Driving Miss Daisy, originally slated to close May 9, will extend for five additional performances -- through Saturday, May 15, 2004. Performances for the final week are Wednesday at 7 pm, Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm, with a matinee on Saturday at 2 pm. There is no Sunday performance. All performances are at Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main Street  in Ventura’s Downtown Cultural District. For tickets call (805) 667-2900. Mention this e-mail to receive $2 off per ticket (may not be combined with other offers).


Critics Rave

"Talented actors drive Miss Daisy. . . subtle, engaging performances... " hailed the Los Angeles Times.


The Ventura County Star proclaimed, “Get yourself down to The Laurel in downtown Ventura to see a superb interpretation of this memorable play.”


“Sensitively directed…first-rate. . . a mini-masterpiece…Ms. Learned does marvelous work,” states the Santa Barbara News Press.


"My heart is still fluttering from the beauty and impact of this flawless production," writes the reviewer from The Tolucan Times, "a mind expanding, highly rewarding, unforgettable experience....mesmerizing. The thunderous applause and standing ovation could have been felt in Los Angeles!"


Driving Miss Daisy chronicles the twenty-five year relationship between a wealthy, sharp-tongued Jewish widow and her soft-spoken black chauffer. Set in the South beginning in 1948, this exquisitely crafted play is a poignant and humorous testament to friendship between people from contrasting worlds.


Under the direction of Rubicon Artistic Director James O’Neil, the cast features four-time Emmy® Award-winning actress Michael Learned as Daisy Werthan. Ms. Learned is often recognized for her series work as Olivia Walton on the much-lauded TV series “The Waltons” and as the star of the series “Nurse.” Lance Nichols, who last appeared at Rubicon in The Boys Next Door, plays Hoke Coleburn, the black chauffer who befriends Daisy. Rounding out the cast, playing Daisy’s son Boolie, is Eric Lange. Mr. Lange recently appeared as Mitch in Rubicon’s acclaimed production of A Streetcar Named Desire.


Rubicon Theatre Company’s production of Driving Miss Daisy takes place during the 50th Anniversary Year of Brown Versus the Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that mandated public school desegregation. The production also takes place near the 50th anniversary of seamstress Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white person.


Says O’Neil, “This production is a potent reminder of several landmark events in the history of the civil rights movement. However the play’s great power is that it is also a very personal story, about how racial prejudices (and differences of religion and age) are overcome over time through friendship.”


Driving Miss Daisy opens Saturday, April 10 and continues through Saturday, May 15, 2004. Regular ticket prices are $30 to $45, depending on the performance, with discounts for groups, seniors, students and military. For tickets or information, call Rubicon Theatre Company (805) 667-2900, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (Visa, Mastercard and American Express accepted.) Rubicon Theatre Company is in residence at The Laurel, located at 1006 E. Main St., Ventura, CA  93001 (corner of Laurel and Main) in Ventura’s Downtown Cultural District.


Rubicon Theatre Company is Ventura’s premiere non-profit professional theatre company.  Founded in 1998 by James O’Neil and Karyl Lynn Burns, the mission of the company is to present a diverse season of classic and contemporary comedies, dramas and musicals for the entertainment, enrichment and education of residents and visitors to the region. Rubicon Theatre Company performs in the intimate 200-seat theatre Laurel, a renovated church originally built in the 1920s. Rubicon was declared the “anchor” of Ventura’s Downtown Cultural District by City Council proclamation.


# # #






UPDATE 9/2/03

InsideVC.com printed the article below on 9/2/03.  As they say in theatre, the show must go on:


The season must go on

September 2, 2003

The building in which the Rubicon stages its shows may be on the market but, thanks to its lease, the theater company's recently announced 2003-2004 season will go on as planned. Here's what's on the playbill.

  • "All My Sons," Arthur Miller's drama set after World War II, will run Oct. 11 to Nov. 9. James O'Neil directs a cast that includes Rubicon regulars George Ball and Joseph Fuqua.


  • Inspired by the life of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who perished aboard the space shuttle Challenger, Jane Anderson's "Defying Gravity" will make its Central Coast premiere in shows from Nov. 22 to Dec. 21. Jenny Sullivan directs Stephanie Zimbalist and Precious Chong.


  • "The Importance of Being Earnest," Oscar Wilde's comedy of Victorian manners, will feature Emmy-winning actress Susan Clark ("Babe," "Webster") from Feb. 28 to March 28. **Also features Johanna McKay and Joseph Fuqua.


  • Michael Learned ("The Waltons") takes on the role made famous by Jessica Tandy in the stage version of "Driving Miss Daisy" April 10 to May 9. Lance Nichols co-stars in the play by Alfred Uhry.


  • A modern-day woman turns to Shakespeare's female characters for advice in "Will's Women," a world premiere musical co-written by Ojai resident Amanda McBroom. Joel Silberman and Robben Ford also worked on the show, which will run June 12 through July 11.


  • "Side by Side by Sondheim," a Stephen Sondheim revue, will feature Terry Ralston, David Engel and Tami Tappan Damiano from July 24 to Aug. 22.


  • Joe Spano and Bruce Weitz will alternate the roles of Vladimir and Estragon during a run of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" Sept. 4 to Oct. 3, 2004. For reservations and information, call 667-2900.0


UPDATE 8/31/03

InsideVC.com printed the article below on 8/17/03.  Looks like RTC may be moving to a new location. That's a shame, because the Laurel is a real gem:


Laurel Theatre up for sale

Owners hope it will be preserved for the arts

By John Scheibe, jscheibe@insidevc.com
August 17, 2003

After converting the Laurel Theatre into one of Ventura's top cultural spots, owner Doug Halter has put the art-deco playhouse up for sale. The asking price: $1.5 million.

Halter said he's selling the 80-year-old building because he wants the money to buy 34 acres of redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where he spent much of his childhood.

Joseph A. Garcia / Star staff

Owners of Ventura's Laurel Theatre, home of The Rubicon Theatre Company, want to sell 
it because of the expenses of taking it to the next level. But they admit new owners could tear it down

Halter also said the 250-seat theater needs about $300,000 in improvements, including more seats. He hopes that whoever buys the facility will make this investment.

"The Laurel really needs to be taken to the next level, and, unfortunately, we don't have the financial wherewithal to do that," Halter said of himself and his business partner, Joe Murray.

Halter acknowledged, however, that there's no guarantee the buyer of the 1006 E. Main St. property will want to maintain the three-story theater, much less invest $300,000 in it.

The new owner instead could decide to tear down the Laurel and replace it with condominiums, something Halter said would be much more profitable than maintaining a community theater.

Halter said he and his real estate agent are screening potential buyers, hoping they can sell it to someone who loves the theater and the arts as much as he does.

Bill Duston, the Coldwell Banker agent who's handling the sale, said he's contacted several potential buyers interested in the arts, including actor Joe Spano, who has appeared on stage at the Laurel and in the 1980s TV series "Hill Street Blues." Duston said Spano told him he would help as much as he could, including contacting other potential buyers.

Halter said the Laurel's demise "would be a huge loss for Ventura."

It didn't take long for Halter to realize the building's potential when the United Pentecostal Church put the property up for sale in May 1999.

"I saw it as more than just a church," said Halter, who along with Murray paid $400,000 for the property. "I saw it as a theater and a place for the arts."

Halter said he and Murray installed a new electrical system, upgraded the bathrooms, built a stage and replaced many of the windows -- at a cost of more than $400,000.

In 2000, the Laurel received a $150,000 grant from the city to offer rehearsal and office space and other assistance to emerging performing arts groups. Halter said the money was spent on administrative expenses and supplies, not on the building itself.

Much of the building has been rented to the Rubicon Theatre Company, a nonprofit theatrical group founded in 1998. Halter said the Rubicon would be an ideal buyer for the Laurel.

Norbert Tan, the Rubicon's managing director, said the theatrical company is interested in buying it but would need much help. "We would need to find potential donors to help us," Tan said, possibly including the city of Ventura.

The Laurel's sale comes as city leaders are looking at ways to raise $28 million or more for a performing arts complex in the downtown.

Critics say the city can ill afford to spend millions on a performing arts center at a time when it faces severe budget cuts and reductions in essential services.

Charles Fulmer, a sculptor and painter who has lived in Ventura for 54 years, said it might make a lot more sense for the city to invest in something more modest like the Laurel.

"We need a community theater like the Laurel," Fulmer said.

Mayor Ray Di Guilio said he knows too little about the Laurel's situation to comment on the idea but indicated it's worth consideration.

Councilman Neal Andrews agreed, saying losing the Laurel "would be devastating to Ventura" and "would probably be the death knell for the Rubicon in Ventura."

Tan said the Rubicon has another year left on its lease at the Laurel. And while it hopes the new owner would keep the Rubicon, the company is ready to move if necessary, Tan said.





Rubicon Artists Out and About

Wonder what Rubicon artists are doing now? Here's an update on just a few of your favorite Rubicon performers:

CHRIS BUTLER (McMurphy in Cuckoo's Nest ) has just been cast as Audra McDonald's brother in the upcoming Broadway production of 110 in the Shade (the musical version of The Rainmaker ).

Production Manager CHRISTINA BURCK and Musical Director DEAN MORA (Side by Side , The World Goes 'Round) just returned from New York, where they were rehearsing the upcoming World Premiere of A Time for Love. (Between them, during two weeks of rehearsal, they saw more than 30 shows in the Big Apple.)

Montecito resident PETER MELNICK'S Adrift in Macao (written with CHRISTOPHER DURANG) is in previews in New York at Primary Stages this week. Peter's Last Smoker in America (co-written with BILL RUSSELL (Side Show) was part of our Plays-in-Progress Series. Ojai resident AMANDA McBROOM (Jacques Brel… , Lady Macbeth Sings the Blues) was featured in the Topa Club Broadway Benefit after returning from New York, where she was continuing workon a new musical with SUZI DIETZ and MICHELLE BROURMAN, Dangerous Beauty. Rumor has it the show may be workshopped in Chicago sometime in the near future. KIRSTEN BENTON CHANDLER (Jacques Brel… , Lies and Legends) is one of the Marvelous Wonderettes at the El Portal in Los Angeles. NATASCIA DIAZ (tick…tick…BOOM!) completed a cast recording for the current Off-Broadway production of Jacques Brel, in which she has been starring.

STEPHANIE ZIMBALIST (The Rainmaker, Night of the Iguana, Defying Gravity) and LAURIE WALTERS (Sylvia , Fools) are both starring in Ensemble Theatre's production of The Memory of Water, directed by Rubicon Artistic Associate JENNY SULLIVAN (who helmed Cuckoo's Nest last season and is on desk to tackle Hamlet at Rubicon next.)

JASON ROBERT BROWN (creator of Songs for a New World), has just written the musical 13, which continues to great acclaim at the Mark Taper Forum. (Rubicon cabaret attendees heard a preview of the show with actress SARA NIEMITZ at the Topa Tower Club last year at one of our Broadway Cabaret events.)

GERALDINE HUGHES just opened on Broadway in BRIAN FRIEL's Translations. Geraldine (of Belfast Blues) also appears on the big screen opposite Sylvester Stallone in the current “Rocky” movie. CONOR LOVETT (BeckettFest, The Good Thief ), goes into rehearsal next week with Tony Award-winning director GARRY HYNES for the Druid Theatre of Galway's production of Leaves. The show will then move to the Royal Court in London.

DOUG CRAWFORD (Romeo and Juliet, Lies and Legends and Tenorio in our recent Man of La Mancha) has been cast in the National Touring company of Jersey Boys, which will be coming to L.A. RANDAL KEITH (Man of La Mancha) has relocated to Las Vegas where he will be appearing in Spamalot . Another transplant to Vegas is Tony Award-winner ANTHONY CRIVELLO (RTC's Mating Dance of the Werewolf on which we partnered with Director STEVEN SCHIPPER and the Manitoba Theatre Centre) is playing the lead in the multimillion-dollar Phantom of the Opera spectacular.

JEFF KOBER (Defying Gravity, The Rainmaker) recently starred on television in “The Closer” and “24.” JOE SPANO (Sylvia , Waiting for Godot) played Howard Strickland in the film “Hollywoodland,” and also has completed 12 episodes as Agent Fornell on “NCIS.”

BILL IRWIN (BeckettFest) is touring in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf with KATHLEEN TURNER, now playing in Los Angeles, for which he received a Tony Award last year.

JON LAWRENCE RIVERA'S acclaimed production of Dog eaters has been remounted at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles .

SUSAN CLARK spent the fall with our sister organization, the Manitoba Theatre Centre in her native Canada where she starred in Retreat from Moscow . Make your reservations NOW to see her in A Woman of Independent Means on February 26 th at Rubicon.

AND… LINDA LIVINGSTON (Murder in the First , Streetcar), received an Ovation nomination for her harrowing and beautiful performance in Wit, which was directed by JON SLADE (Cuckoo's Nest ). Linda played opposite TED NEELEY in Murder in the First – Ted is out on the road in the Farewell Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar.


Have you spotted a Rubicon artist onstage or screen? E-mail us to let us know their whereabouts and we'll share it on our website!


Life of Brian

Brian McDonald, Rubicon’s tireless and creative Director of Education and Outreach, received the Mayor’s Arts Award from the City of Ventura at a Nov. 15 ceremony at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Ventura Beach. He was one of five recipients of the award, which recognizes “the artistic achievements and contributions to the cultural community by city residents, artists, educators, organizations and business leaders.”

McDonald, a Long Island native who has been with Rubicon for six years, thanked Artistic Director James O’Neil and Producing Artistic Director Karyl Lynn Burns, whom he called “courageous visionaries.”

He spoke of the satisfaction he receives from teaching young people, noting that these emerging artists “give me hope.” As they learn about theatre, he added, “They have learned how to treat each other with respect. They have learned to negotiate through the power of language and not violence. Most importantly, they have learned that to be an artist, you must live life with an open mind and embrace others’ difference and uniqueness.”

To learn more about Brian’s many programs, including acting classes, student matinees and the Young Playwrights’ Festival, go to www.rubicontheatre.com and click on ‘Outreach and Education.’


Flying Rubicon First-Class

Rubicon is in the process of transforming its balcony into a VIP Suite!

We have just installed luxurious leather seats in the balcony (with plenty of leg room), which, starting in September with She Loves Me, will be accompanied by beverage and hors d'oeuvres service before the show and at intermission from a private balcony server. It's like flying Rubicon first-class!

If you'd like to try it, call our box office at (805) 667-2900.
Theatre parties and corporate events will also be available come September. And a big thank you to our corporate sponsors, Fashion Forms and Barber Ford, for being the first to come on board.





The Ventura County Arts Council is pleased to announce that the Rubicon Theatre Company, located in the City of Ventura’s Downtown Cultural District, will host the 2009 Poetry Out Loud County Competition on Thursday, February 19, 2009.

All public, private, and parochial high schools, as well as home schoolers, are urged to participate in the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, a competition that engages high-school students in the presentation of poetry through memorization and performance. Competitions are held in schools, with the school winners then competing on the county level in mid February 2009. The county winner then advances to the California state championship, and perhaps the national contest held in Washington, DC in April 2009. Interested teachers, administrators, parents and students are encouraged to contact the Ventura County Arts Council at (805) 658-2213 for details on how they can participate. The program encourages high school students to study and recite some of the richest language every written.

Thanks to generous support from SAGE in Thousand Oaks, our Poetry Out Loud program can provide professional poets to work with teachers in the classroom through the VCAC and California Poets in the Schools. Nationally approved educational materials and teachers guides are free. There is no fee to participate. Students make their selections from an anthology of hundreds of poems. For more information on how to participate in the 2009 Ventura County Poetry Out Loud program contact the Ventura County Arts Council at (805) 658-2213. General information can be found at www.cac.ca.gov and www.poetryoutloud.org.






Another Inside Look at our Board of Directors

We would like to introduce you to three more members of our Board of Directors. The Board is comprised of behind-the-scenes visionaries who govern and guide the organization.

Anthony T Hirsch, MD joined Rubicon Theatre Board in December of 2006. Dr. Hirsch, a graduate of Tufts University undergraduate and medical schools did his Pediatric Residency and Chief Residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Moving to Los Angeles with the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, he completed an Allergy and Immunology fellowship at L.A. County-USC Medical Center and practiced Pediatrics and Allergy in Los Angeles from 1973 to 1999. In 1988, he was the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics Los Angeles Chapter and, in addition, served on the National American Academy of Pediatrics Committees on Health Care Financing and Pediatric Practice, chairing both. From 1984 to 1999, he was the Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at White Memorial Medical Center and also was the Director of the Pediatric Residency Program. Dr. Hirsch and his wife, Barbara, moved to Ojai in 1999. Both have always been active in community service and Barbara joined the Board of the Rubicon in 1999. Dr. Hirsch has had a love of the visual arts and music and is in his second term as President of the Ojai Film Society, an organization dedicated to bringing art film to the Ojai Valley. In addition to this activity, he is involved with Help of Ojai, both as a handicapped van driver and as a member of the Community Planning Committee, the latter for community medical issues. As a member of Rubicon Theatre Company’s Board, he looks forward to the opportunity of helping to shape Ventura's premier theatre company as it grows in the future.

Barbara Meister is a retired educator and taught the gifted program in the Ventura Unified School District for many years. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Elementary Education and is the author of “The Pear-Pair Tree,” a children’s book about homonyms. Barbara worked as a travel consultant and travel writer and is presently President/CEO of Barber Ford-VW-Subaru-R.V. A “community activist,” Barbara serves on the advisory boards for Casa Pacifica, the Ventura Education Partnership, the San Buenaventura Foundation for the Arts and the Ventura Music Festival. She is on the boards of the Topa Tower Club, Ventura County Community Foundation Women’s Legacy Fund, the Community Memorial Healthcare Foundation and the Jewish Federation Women’s Division. Barbara is a founding member of Rubicon Theatre Company and the Grandes Dames. Nursing scholarships at Community Memorial Hospital, scholarships for high school students majoring in business and employee awards at Casa Pacifica have been established by Barbara in memory of her late husband, Larry. Barbara is the recipient of many community service awards including Casa Pacifica’s Guardian Angel and the Ventura County Jefferson Award. Because of Barbara and Larry Meister’s charitable contributions, the social hall at Temple Beth Torah, the boardroom at Casa Pacifica and the lobby at Rubicon Theatre Company have been named in their honor.

Roy Schneider graduated magna cum laude from Loyola University School of Law. Upon graduation, he served as Counsel for Bank of America in its Los Angeles Corporate Office. He later joined an established firm in Ventura, California where he was a principal until joining Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones & Schneider, L.L.P. in 2001. While maintaining his law practice, Mr. Schneider founded the California College of Paralegal Studies and served as its Dean until the College was sold to a public corporation. Mr. Schneider has a passion for education and in furtherance of this interest, Mr. Schneider is a Professor of Business Law and Business Ethics at Ventura Community College, served for 15 years as a Professor of Corporations Law at Ventura College of Law, and currently is a Professor at Antioch University in Santa Barbara, California. Mr. Schneider is recognized as an expert in the field of ethics and is called upon to assist companies in resolving ethical dilemmas. Mr. Schneider’s areas of legal expertise include business planning, choosing the correct business entity, mergers, acquisitions and sales of businesses, employment law, contracts, transactional matters of all kinds, real estate transactions and estate planning. Mr. Schneider has written numerous articles on topics ranging from taking a fresh look at using limited liability companies to charitable planned giving. Mr. Schneider is a frequent lecturer before private and civic groups. Mr. Schneider believes in giving back to the community and serves on several charitable boards and foundations, including Ventura Medical Resource Foundation, Jewish Family Service, Project Understanding (Special Committee Assignment), the Anti-Defamation League of Ventura County, and the Board of Directors of Rubicon.

More on Rubicon's Board of Directors

We invite you to meet three more members of our distinguished Board of Directors. We thank them for their dedication to the vision and mission of the organization.

Mike Merewether, Vice President is a 1964 Graduate of the University of Washington, Seattle, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He worked for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company for 12 years and was a partner with Tolman & Wiker Insurance between 1976 and 2005. Since retiring from the Insurance business, in January of 2006, he has been actively working in real estate development, serving on the Rubicon and San Buenaventura Foundation for the Arts Boards and as a volunteer for the YMCA. Mike and his wife Loretta have been residents of Ventura since 1976. They have 4 children and 6 grandchildren.

Glenn Wallace, CPA, Treasurer attended UCLA and graduated from USC with a degree in accounting. He began his career as a CPA in a Hollywood CPA firm and developed his own firm 20 years ago which later merged to become Wallace and Wallace Accountancy. The predecessor firm, his father’s, has been in existence from the mid-1950s. The firm specializes in taxes, business consulting, and business management. Stephanie Zimbalist and her father Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. have been long-time clients of the Wallace firm. Glenn was introduced to Rubicon Theatre through Stephanie and became a regular subscriber after seeing her work and the quality of the performances at the theatre. That enjoyment of the theatre led him to join the Board three years ago and he has just recently been named Treasurer. Wallace has been married to wife Beth (a secondary school history teacher) for 35 years. They have two sons, one, a specialized travel agent, married and temporarily living in Australia, who is one of the 45 agents selling tickets on Virgin Galactic (www.linaratravel.com); the other is in Northern California building his career.

Dr. Rosalind Warner moved from Philadelphia to Ventura County in 2001 where she and her husband W. Michael Hogan, M.D. began their medical practices at Los Robles Regional Medical Center. They have subsequently moved their main office to Ventura where she practices Gynecology and he provides most of the Gynecologic Oncology Surgical care for both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. She immediately began service as a Director on the Greater Conejo Valley American Cancer Society Board and continues as a Director on the UCLA Medical School Alumni Board. In addition, Dr. Warner is completing her second term as President of the Board of Directors of Saticoy Country Club and has served as Chairman of the Membership Committee and an active member of their Finance Committee. Another interesting adventure since moving west has been her association as one of the “Women of Jewelia.” The group, which began simply as thirteen women sharing ownership of a diamond necklace, has evolved into a potential global lesson of community service and sharing as the group has thus far sponsored five local fundraisers in its 2-½ years of existence. Another project of Dr. Warner's involves a newly formed committee that is exploring the possibility of providing a unique form of hospice care for Ventura County. Dr. Warner became an active member of Rubicon Theatre Board in October of 2006 and as a member of the Finance and Educational Outreach Committees is looking forward to promoting the growth of the theatre company with a special interest in its involvement with student groups in our community.

Having It All

We think the expression “win-win” is perfectly suited to opportunities like this one. How good would it feel to both give and get in one fell swoop?

The finest retail stores have banded together to help you support Ventura's premiere professional theatre... You're helping to change everyday shopping for good, just by shopping the Mall at iGive.com. And the choices are almost limitless! You'll find great stores like Barnes&Noble.com, JCPenney.com, Land's End, Expedia, and Dell. You can purchase gifts, pet supplies, home décor, music, video and almost anything else you care to mention.

Best of all, every purchase you make through iGive.com helps Rubicon Theatre Company, automatically!

Click here to learn more.

Remember: To qualify for a donation, you must shop through iGive.com: their Web site, newsletter, or using the iGive.com Shopping Window.

Start your shopping at the Mall at iGive.com or through any iGive.com Newsletter.

Candidates' Forum

Ventura has adopted the slogan “California’s New Art City.” But how can we make that intriguing concept a tangible reality?

Candidates for Ventura City Council will address that issue when they take part in an Arts Forum at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17 at the Bell Arts Factory, 432 N. Ventura Ave. Issues to be raised will include public funding for the arts and ways to attract cultural tourists to the city.

The San Buenaventura Foundation for the Arts, which is co-sponsoring the forum, is asking interested citizens to submit specific questions for the candidates via e-mail. Those who do so will be entered into a drawing, the winner of which will receive two tickets to an upcoming Rubicon performance.

To submit your question, go to www.venturaarts.org. Click on the Arts Forum banner.