BWW Interviews: Philly People Behind the Curtain - Interview with Media Theater's Artistic Director Jesse Cline
In the Greater Philadelphia region, one professional music theatre company continues to brighten the theatrical landscape after twenty years. Since 1994, when the first live musical presentation "My Fair Lady" opened its grand curtain to a sold out audience on opening night, Media has continued to offer traditional shows such as "Show Boat", "The Sound of Music", "Rent", "The Who's Tommy", and "Chicago". Their recent mounting of "Joseph" starring TV Soap star Kyle Lowder as Joseph opened to rave reviews as the tradition seems to continue.
Memorable performances by renowned actors and actresses such as Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jason Danieley, Andy Karl, David Miller, Justin Guarini, Kyle Lowder, Emmy winner Wanda Sykes, Tony winners Betty Buckley and Judy Kaye and Tony nominees Philip Boykin, Ann Crumb, and Andrea McArdle.
At the helm of creative process is Jesse Cline. Cline and his staff of creative designers and directors have been awarded over 20 "Best Of" honors in the past 20 years, from prestigious media outlets such as Broadway World, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Daily News, Main Line Today Magazine, Delco News Network, and the Delaware County Daily Times.
We caught up with Mr. Cline to get his prospective on producing and directing the Media Theater for the past 20 years.
Pati Buehler: What is the process that you go through with each new production from deciding the show to casting and directing?
Jesse Cline: First we decide each season with an emphasis on opening with a recognizable title which would support strong box office results, raising awareness for the entire season. We intersperse recognizable titles with some that are less well known, but have a relevant artistic value for our audiences. I do not direct each show, as other directors are more suited to certain titles. This season, for instance, I am at the helm of three of our five shows--I just directed Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Joseph" for the holiday season, am currently working on getting "Diary of Anne Frank" ready to open, and will next do our season closer which is "Sunset Boulevard".
After we choose our shows, we hire a design team from portfolios we received and interviews with prospective candidates. We have auditions in both the Philly region (here at our theatre) and in NYC for the productions to obtain the casts.
PB: How and when did you get involved with the Arts and important are the Arts to you and why?
JC: I was always interested in music and theatre. Truly I did not choose the arts--the arts chose me! There was no choice, it was who I was and still am. The fusion of music and theatre seemed natural as I have always had a love for Broadway musicals. The arts are important because they are my life; they have colored my life, and have given me a freedom to be who I am.
PB: Tell us about Media's educational programs and how this has benefited your participants.
JC: Our theatre education system here has over 300 participants per year. They are those who naturally gravitate to the theatre. There are not many opportunities to study music theatre as we present it. We have our New School program, which is our conservatory-style approach to music theatre education where each element of music theatre is studied as the one of the three components: acting, music, and dance. Aside from that program, we offer instruction in piano, voice, acting, improvisation, and movement. The education program here has assisted many of our students in pursuing professional careers that have gone on to National Tours and Broadway.
PB: Who has been instrumental in furthering your Media Theatre programs?
JC: The Mayor of Media, Mr. Bob McMahon, has worked tirelessly in making sure the theatre is alive and thriving as a contributor to the arts in the borough and greater Delaware County. There's also Walter M. Strine, Sr, who hired me two decades ago. He is no longer with us, but remains with us in spirit each day. The Delaware County Council is instrumental in assisting us with bricks and mortar projects. All of this adds up, ensuring we remain the hub of professional theatre in Delaware County.
PB: Any future plans for 2014 and beyond that you'd like to share with me?
JC: We have a very exciting 2014-15 Broadway Series season to announce in February, which we are unable to announce prior to then due to licensing agreements. We are also in the process of installing a turntable and, eventually, moving toward having a fly system. Another thing we are involved in is the process of taking a well known Oscar nominated screenplay and adapting it into a piece of music theatre for our stage.
For more information about the Media Theatre: Call 610-891-0100 or visit mediatheatre.org
Photo: Jesse Cline Artistic Director with theater students
Photos: Courtesy of Roger Ricker, Media Theatre's Media Marketing