By Tiffany Lam | Special to the Almanac
When the San Jose Repertory Theatre went under earlier this year, it left the regional theater community in dismay. Members of that community included the "Rep's" award-winning artistic director, Rick Lombardo.
After the doors banged shut on his career at the Rep, Mr. Lombardo found himself in a transitional phase. But through a connection with a Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory board member, another door opened, and he recently signed on as the conservatory's first-ever artist-in-residence.
His arrival at the small conservatory to fill the short-term position was an occasion for celebration. "We've all been walking around pinching ourselves a little," said Cheryl Goodman-Morris, Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory's founder and artistic director. "Artistic directors in regional theaters don't usually have time to do something like this."
But for Mr. Lombardo, this is a chance to do what he loves. "I want to be able to give back to the community," he said. When the artist-in-residence term ends, he plans to find permanent work as artistic director for another theater group, he said. But meanwhile, "when I'm not directing a company, what I love to do is teach."
Mr. Lombardo will begin teaching adult acting classes for the conservatory next week, and his tenure as artist-in-residence runs through the end of December. Along with his wife, professional actress Rachel Lombardo, he will also teach youth workshops for PVTC's children's conservatory.
"Rick and Rachel bring a wonderful wealth of knowledge and experience. They're electric when they're around," said Ms. Goodman-Morris.
"I hope that people in the community can gain a greater sense of skill and confidence from the classes," she said, adding that they are open to the greater Bay Area.
The adult classes include a musical theater workshop, audition technique, and a scene study class.
"What I'm excited about is the opportunity to share my love of theater and years of experience with people at the conservatory," he said.
That experience includes his tenure at San Jose Rep, which began in 2008, and a 13-year stint as artistic director of the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, Massachusetts. In 2009, he was awarded the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence from The Boston Theatre Critics Association for his body of artistic work at New Repertory.
With contributions from the board member (who wishes to remain anonymous) who contacted Mr. Lombardo, the conservatory was able to hire him to start in July.
"Our visionary board member thought Mr. Lombardo had a lot in common with the conservatory's approach, vision, and love for the arts," Ms. Goodman-Morris. said. "She was already a contributor to our nonprofit theater, and her contributions are making his artist-in-residence position possible."
Before San Jose Rep went bankrupt in June, Mr. Lombardo was involved in several productions, including the world premiere of Matthew Spangler's stage adaptation of "The Kite Runner."
In addition to teaching classes, Mr. Lombardo will direct a Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory benefit concert version of "The Snow Queen," which he co-wrote and premiered at San Jose Rep last year and staged at the New York Music Theatre Festival earlier this year.
"One of the great things about the benefit concert is that I can help raise funds to support the conservatory's program," said Mr. Lombardo.
Even more, the benefit concert is a way for Mr. Lombardo and his co-writers, Kirsten Brandt and Haddon Kime, to see and hear the show to make sure certain rewrites are working, he said.
For Ms. Goodman-Morris, who is also a pastor at Valley Presbyterian Church, which provides space for the Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory, the production is a great way to finish a long career.
"I started the conservatory 20 years ago, but I'm retiring after next year," she said. "This will be one of our last big productions."
Go to www.pvtc-ca.org for more information on the Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory, including information on classes taught by Mr. Lombardo.