North Coast Repertory Theatre will launch its 27th season Sept. 10. It’s a phenomenal achievement that any theatrical company could survive the ups and downs of economic changes for that long, but especially amazing considering the small and intimate venue from which North Coast Rep operates.
Seen by more than 40,000 playgoers every year, North Coast Rep continues to earn high praise for its productions. Artistic and producing director David Ellenstein, a veteran of more than 100 theatrical productions and former artistic director for the Los Angeles Repertory Company, attributes this success to several factors.
“We continue to draw quality performers,” Ellenstein said. “We try to create a good environment. This includes paying them well. It’s not as much as an actor can earn at the big theaters, but for a theater our size, we pay them well and try to make it a fun place to work.”
Bringing in desirable productions is another element Ellenstein attributes to a successful season and a continuing lure for seasoned actors.
“We perform plays that actors relish and because I have been doing this a long time, I have connections with a great caliber of talent,” he said. “Jonathan McMurtry, who has a lead in ‘The Dresser,’ comes here because of our long standing relationship. It’s a big undertaking, and if he hadn’t agreed to the role, we might not have done it.
“Rosina Reynolds, who is directing ‘Don’t Dress For Dinner,’ has been coming here for years because as much as we are challenged by the limitations of the venue itself, it is a great venue to watch a play. That’s because the intimacy allows the audience to connect right away with the actors. They thrive on that close connection.”
Selection of the next season’s play is a year-long process Ellenstein begins before the current season ends. He concentrates on making sure the plays are not too similar or duplicate themes.
“Sometimes I will bring in a play that I have done elsewhere but feel I can get more out of and that the North Coast audience hasn’t seen,” he said. “But I also have a continual list of new plays and ones I’m really excited about doing. It’s about mixing and matching as well. I always want at least one musical, one comedy and one new play, so two slots are up for grabs.”
Ellenstein also looks for writers and actors he knows, enjoys or has a connection with to round out his decisions.
“We’ve done three of Donald Margulies’ plays and I’m a fan of his writing,” he said. “We’re doing the premiere of his new play, ‘Shipwrecked,’ because it’s a really fun and imaginative play.”
Once the lineup is set, Ellenstein faces more decisions about who will direct each play. He tries not to helm two in a row and usually chooses the ones he’s directed for other venues. After all of his choices are in place, he faces his biggest challenge: how to fill the theater seats.
“Coming up with the money to fund the season is always a struggle no matter what size your theater is,” Ellenstein said. “We earn about 60 percent of what we need each year and the rest we get through donations - that’s a game that never ends.”
Ellenstein is enthusiastic about the 27th season and is looking forward to the first production of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”
“I wanted to do this play since I first heard it in 1975,” he said. “I love the music and always wanted to put it on stage. We have four fantastic performers and it’s not only funny and entertaining, it’s also very powerful. It runs the panoply of what you want out of a theater experience.”
North Coast Repertory Theatre 27th season lineup
“Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”- Previews Sept. 10-12
- Runs Sept. 13-Oct. 5
“Don’t Dress for Dinner”- Previews Oct. 22-24
- Runs Oct. 25-Nov. 16
“A Christmas Carol”- Previews Dec. 3-4
- Runs Dec. 5-27
“The Dresser”- Previews Jan. 4-16
- Runs Jan. 17-Feb. 8
“Shipwrecked!”- Previews Feb. 18-20
- Runs Feb. 21-March 15
“Rabbit Hole”- Previews April 1-3
- Runs April 4-26
“Old Wicked Songs”- Previews May 6-8
- Runs May 9-31
“Over the Tavern”- Previews June 17-19
- Runs June 20 – July 12
More information: (858) 481-1055 or