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Interview: First Look with Bob Rusch

What does Buffalo need? Buffalo needs more theater.

Interview: First Look with Bob Rusch

What does Buffalo need? Buffalo needs more theater.

No, I'm not being sarcastic.

Buffalo can never get enough theater.

We must embrace and welcome all newcomers. It should be more about the art than the ego.

Happily I know of no theater companies who want others to fail.

Bravo Buffalo for having class in the art world.

It does sound corny but it's a true statement ... as far as I know ... and I'm corny.

If you want to see a musical, drama, comedy, absurd or whatever.

Buffalo, New York has it!

I've only been in theater for twenty-five years and have watched many stages go dark.

It's a sad thing to see.

It's also a great thing for a new company to replace the dark stage with bright lights and talent!

This brings us to very busy guy and he is all over the place.

Bob Rusch covers this city like a Buffalo snow storm.

He isn't new to theater but he has a new theater company and venue.

Bob also made this interview very easy.

He knows how to promote himself and his company.

Let's talk to Bob Rusch.:

MCL: How did you first get involved with theater?

BR: On a dare actually lol. In 5th grade my neighbor was bragging to my friend and I about being cast in the high school production of Peter Pan. Trying to be cool, we said we could also. He said we couldn't and that was enough for us to go down to the school and ask the director if we could be in the play. We were both tall for our age so he said yes and made us pirates. When our neighbor came and saw us at rehearsal he wasn't pleased to say the least lol. My mom saw I really enjoyed the experience so next year she signed me up for acting classes. She always wanted to be an actor herself so she was very encouraging. Both my parents were actually.

MCL: What are some of your past theater highlights you'd like to brag about?

BR: I've been lucky to have worked with some really great people during my career. I was a member of the world famous Trap Door Theatre Company in Chicago. I was also in the first "Ensemble Project" training program at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago which had some big names as its founders like Gary Sinise, John Malkovich and Laurie Matcalf. I was one of eighteen out of over five hundred who auditioned to get in. My performance as Mountain McClintock in "Requiem for a Heavyweight" by Rod Serling in Los Angeles got rave reviews by both the LA Times and LA Reader. Did a lot of training and character study to play him, an aging boxer forced into retirement. Very proud of the work.

MCL: Please tells us all about your first theater company?

BR: I am the founder and former Artistic Director of SkyPilot Theatre Company in Los Angeles. They're still doing great without me. They have a production up now currently. Very proud of that. Ran that company for ten years and had some really great productions, including many world premieres, which is what we'll be doing with First Look Buffalo as well.

MCL: You are starting up your Second Company. What's the name of it?

BR: It's called First Look Buffalo Theatre Company. My co-founder John Patrick Patti came up with the name which is perfect because we will be exclusively producing new plays. We will be working with members of our playwright wing, nine playwrights from around the country, including three from Buffalo, who were personally invited to work with us. They will each turn in one new play a year for a staged reading which will be professionally shot and recorded. This is how we will pick our shows moving forward but it's also a chance for them to develop their work and hopefully have their play produced by another theatre, if not by us. We also have a thirty five member actors ensemble and a seven member directors wing plus a board of directors to oversee the business side of things and run our non-profit corporation. Our first season will feature two east coast premieres, a world premiere and a short one-act festival of all new plays. And yes, they will all be a "first look" for Buffalo.

MCL:Why a Second Company? What inspired you to do this?

BR: When I left Los Angeles and moved back to WNY in 2015 I was really burned out running SkyPilot. I told myself "never again". But like Michael Corleone said: "Every time I try to get out, they drag me back in!" Lol. I love the theatre and love acting. Can't help it. So in 2019 I decided just to produce a play I saw in Los Angeles years earlier called "Cops and Friends of Cops" by Ron Klier. John Patrick Patti and I decided to produce it under the name First Look Buffalo Stage Productions, with the idea of maybe producing more shows in the future and only producing plays that have never been done in Buffalo before. Just something to help us stand out. That was in January 2020. During Covid two friends of mine, Pandora Kew and Vanessa Shevat, asked about producing a play under the First Look Name. I suggested an all female monologue play I had produced in Los Angeles called "To The New Girl" By Samantha Macher. They loved the play and we produced it last fall 2021. During that time I asked some friends, who are not actors but professionals who like theatre, if they would join a board if we wanted to make First Look Buffalo a real theatre company and non-profit. They agreed and so here we are.

MCL: Do you have a Board in place? What roles do each play on the Board? Do you have a business partner(s)?

BR:Yes we do. Knowing we would need to raise money and that I wanted the artists to focus on the work on stage, the first thing I did was put together a board of professionals who could help run the corporation. They focus on raisng money and supporting the artists. We couldn't do this without them. We just hosted a successful bingo fudraiser and more are planned for the future. We are currently looking for season sponsors. That is our goal this summer leading up to our fall production. We offer a lot of perks with marketing and tickets for our sponsors. I'm personally talking to a few myself from my real estate connections.

MCL:What is the mission of this new theater company?

BR:Simply to develop and produce new plays. We feel its of the utmost importance to keep the creative pipeline full of new works in order for this great genre of live theatre to have a successful future, I see a lot of the same plays being done, sometimes only a handful of years apart. We think our local WNY audience would like to see something new.

MCL:Why do you think new & original plays are so important as your main objective?

BR:Because without them theater, as we know it, dies eventually. We all love classic cars, maybe a late 60s Camaro, for nostalgia. But if Chevy stopped introducing new Camaros every year, that brand would have ended years ago. Same with plays and entertainment in general. People crave new things.

MCL: When does your first season start up? What shows are you doing?

BR: We open October 7-29th 2022 with FUTURE WARS: A SCI FI DOUBLE FEATURE which included two one-act plays, both East Coast premieres. RESET by Samantha Macher and OVERLAY by Adam Hahn. Then this winter we will be producing our first ONE-ACT/ONE LOCATION production featuring 9 short one-acts that all take place in the same location. We haven't decided on the setting yet. I'm excited to see what our playwrights come up with. Then next spring it's the World Premiere of FURSONA NON GRATA by Jeff Goode. A play I've wanted to produce for ten years now. It's the first full length play production about Furries and people who live the Furrie lifestyle. Google it! Lol.

MCL: Tell us about the actual theatre. Please describe it.

BR: We'll be in residence at the park school in Amherst. They have a beautiful flexible space that features a traditional proscenium and a thrust stage out front. They also have a state of the art light board and instruments. We're really excited to work with them.

MCL: Where do you think you fit in with Buffalo theater scene?

BR: Not really sure. We're definitely the new kids on the block but we're not going anywhere soon so hopefully audience members get excited about our mission statement of producing new plays. It's our job to pick great plays then make sure we execute on stage. I'm extremely confident we will.

MCL: All theaters need volunteers. Who and how would they contact to set that up?

BR: Just email firstlookbuffalo@gmail.com

MCL: If a person is new to theater would your theater be the place to start with?

BR: Not for actors or writers per say but we always need help building sets and with marketing.

MCL: What makes your theater stand out for those loyal theater goers?

BR: If they want to see something new and exciting with fresh faces then they will love what we're going to give them. Our goal is to make Buffalo NY a hub for new play development for the rest of the World. This will be something all Buffalonias can take pride in.

MCL: Time to promote even more ... What do you want people to know about you and your company that we didn't discuss and need to know?

BR: Our staged readings will be FREE to the public. Please go to www.FirstLookBuffalo.com and sign up for our mailing list or follow us on Facebook for dates! They start in September!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Please go to www.FirstLookBuffalo.com and sign up for the First Look mailing list or follow them on Facebook for dates! They start in September!

Volunteers Just email firstlookbuffalo@gmail.com

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From This Author - Mark C. Lloyd

Mark C. LLoyd is a published Poet and produced Playwright who resides in Lockport, New York.

As a Playwright, Director, board member and production consultant he has worked with many theater ... (read more about this author)


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