Walking briskly around the Temple Civic Theatre’s thrust stage, new hire John Monteverde plops down in a front row seat with a smile. He’s just conducted a three-hour open audition for “Count Dracula” and if he’s tired, it’s not evident.
“This stage is great,” he said. “With the thrust you get that intimacy, rather than the distance of a proscenium. I can’t wait to use all the potential that this (theater) space allows.”
Monteverde has been in Temple all of four days, and as the newly appointed managing and artistic director of TCT, he appears to have hit the ground running. “In ‘Count Dracula’ for example — it’s a classic — and I want to find fresh, new ways to present it.”
A graduate of the University of Washington, Monteverde grew up in Mill Valley, Calif. He was founding artistic director for the Northwest Children’s Theater in Portland, founded the Blue Monkey Theater Co. and has directed more than 70 productions. “I did children’s theater for 17 years and it was too successful,” Monteverde said. “It got too big — I was tired of so much money-raising, instead of (working with) the kids.”
It’s all about relationships, Monteverde said. “Parents, grandparents and kids together onstage. TCT will reflect this community, and a big part of that is our children’s programs.”
An expanded summer theater camp for young people and teen internships are on Monteverde’s agenda.
He immediately commends Betsi Chamlee, TCT’s Youth Theater director: “I really like Betsi’s energy. I want to strengthen TCT’s alliance with Temple College, too.”
“We need to strike that balance,” Monteverde said, describing his choice of repertoire for next season. “This season’s shows are decided, so I need to find out what our audiences want. It’s a point between their comfort zone and the challenges that unfamiliar plays may present.”
And how does he like the actual theater space? “It is a fantastic facility,” Monteverde said, walking out onto the bare stage. “With these acoustics we don’t need body microphones for ‘Dracula’. The theater itself was a definite draw.”
As a transplant from the Northwest, he found the urban vibe of downtown Temple to his liking, and has leased an apartment near “a terrific Thai restaurant — that’s important — as well as coffee. I’m pleased to report that I’ve located three Starbucks, so I’m happy.”
His aspiring actors and producer Jody Donaldson have left the building, and stage manager Jacob Duncan is ready to call it a night. Monteverde wants to be clear on one point: “An arts organization like TCT should reflect the dreams and values of the community. We’re right here in the heart of Texas, and TCT is a company with a lot of heart.”