Karyl Lynn Burns Retires as Artistic Director of Rubicon Theatre After 25 Years

Beverly and Kirby Ward will be taking over the position.

By: Nov. 17, 2022
Karyl Lynn Burns Retires as Artistic Director of Rubicon Theatre After 25 Years
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.

Existing user? Just click login.

Rubicon Producing Artistic Director and Co-Founder Karyl Lynn Burns retired from the company on Sunday, November 13, following the acclaimed sold-out run of In the Heights. Says Burns, "It's been a long and beautiful run and Jim [O'Neil] and I will forever be grateful to those we've met during our 25 years in Ventura who have taught us the meaning of community and showed us what can happen when dedicated and passionate people come together in pursuit of common goals. We are looking forward to beginning a new chapter, and to spending more time with each other and our families."

"What we're most excited about," continues Burns, "is the opportunity to pass the torch to two longtime friends and collaborators, Beverly and Kirby Ward. They are multi-talented, incredibly diverse veteran performers with West End, Broadway and National Tour credits. After years of knowing them and working together at Rubicon, we have complete faith in them and trust that, with continued board and community support, they will take the company and the art to new heights."

Burns and husband James O'Neil co-founded Rubicon in November of 1998 and have led the organization for nearly 25 years. During their tenure, the company has produced more than 160 comedies, dramas and musicals, including more than 20 world premieres. Under Karyl Lynn and Jim's leadership, Rubicon received numerous awards, including the L.A. Drama Critics Special Award for Sustained Excellence, two New York Drama Desk Awards, Ovation Awards for Best Production of a Play, Larger Theatre (for Arthur Miller's All My Sons and Gulf View Drive by Arlene Hutton), and an NAACP Award. Rubicon has taken five shows to New York and has also toured productions across the U.S. and to Tokyo, South Korea, London and Dublin. In addition to mainstage programming, Burns and O'Neil have produced festivals, special events, a Broadway concert series and extensive educational programming for young people ages 6-23.

The Wards have a long history at Rubicon, freelancing as directors and actors at the company since 2008. They stepped into ongoing administrative/creative staff positions in 2018 and were responsible for the direction and choreography of Rubicon's critically acclaimed, sold-out run of Big River in 2019. The couple have worked together on stage and off for nearly half-a-century. They bring with them West End, Broadway, Off-Broadway, and National and International Tour credits.

The Ward's have said that guiding the future artistic path of Rubicon will be their "dream job." "Karyl Lynn and Jim have changed the face of the Southern California theatre scene. The respect they've garnered on both coasts is well-deserved," says Bev Ward, who is Rubicon's current Director of Outreach. "From day one, they imagined a Rubicon where literally anything was possible on the theatre's intimate stage."

"They're a tough act to follow," says Kirby, currently the Director of the Summer Education program at Rubicon, "but we feel incredibly fortunate to be given the chance to lead at a company with such an impeccable standard of quality and diversity. It's a responsibility we take very seriously."

The Wards say their view of theatre at its best is informed by their experiences in producing and performing around the world, from Mongolia to Berlin, from Bogotá to London. The couple promises to remain faithful to Burns' and O'Neil's original vision for Rubicon.

"Like Karyl Lynn and Jim, our goal is to produce theatre full of heart and truth, focused on great storytelling, where new plays thrive alongside reimagined classics, and where under-represented voices from around the world can be heard" says Kirby.

"What a gift we are being given," adds Bev. "We hope to do the company and the community proud."

Says Board President Doug Halter, "This is an ideal succession plan for the company that we all have been quietly working on together for some time and we are pleased to share the news with the public. Bev and Kirby have been an integral part of the team and are loved and respected by the community and staff, so we know this will be a smooth transition."

"We as a board and community owe Karyl Lynn and Jim a great debt for their many years of service," adds Halter, "and for giving Ventura the gift of a professional not-for-profit theatre that we know and trust will be here for generations."

Says Burns, "Parting with people and places you love is always sweet sorrow, but we leave knowing that this is the right time to infuse new vitality and vision into the organization as Bev and Kirby move Rubicon from a founder-driven organization to a strong and sustainable institution. There's so much more to say; we look forward to time to express our gratitude personally to those who have made this Rubicon journey possible."

ABOUT Kirby Ward

Kirby Ward has been in the entertainment industry for over forty years and starred on London's West End and on the Broadway stage. He received an Olivier Award nomination as the original Bobby Child in the UK premier of Crazy For You. He's guided theatrical productions all over the world, from New York City to Inner Mongolia. Ward has directed, choreographed and otherwise collaborated with such luminaries as James Caan, Bette Midler, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, to list but a few. He's been named Best Director of the Year and Best Choreographer of the Year four times - twice by the critics in Boston and twice by the Critics in San Diego. Over the years, his work has often been included on the L.A. Times Critic's Choice list. Kirby's original film, "Down in the Mouth," has been screened in six national film festivals including the Los Angeles International Shorts Film Festival, and the Kent Film Festival in Kent, Connecticut, where it won Best Short Film. In addition to his acting and directing, Ward is an author and playwright. His musicals have been featured at the NAMT Festival of New Musicals and the York Theatre in Manhattan, the main stage of the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington, the Festival of New Artists at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut, and abroad at London's Page to Stage Musical Theatre Festival. Rubicon audiences have enjoyed his directorial efforts in Return to the Forbidden Planet, She Loves Me, and Big River, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

ABOUT Beverly Ward

As a child, Beverly Ward participated in San Diego Junior Theatre, were she fell in love with the performing arts. By the time she was eighteen, she was working with Anne Miller and Mickey Rooney in the National Tour of Sugar Babies. Over the last three decades, Bev has appeared on and Off-Broadway (Epic Proportions,Anastasia, A Child's Christmas in Wales), in numerous National Tours (Sugar Babies, Crazy for You - Helen Hayes Nomination for Best Actress, Showboat, Billy Elliot), and has sung with renowned musicians and orchestras all across America. She has collaborated with husband Kirby Ward on multiple directorial projects and together they have written three musicals. Their latest effort, an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, is in development and the scheduled 2021 full production at Rubicon Theatre Company was delayed by the pandemic. The show's trajectory has been influenced by its inclusion in festivals like Page to Stage in London's West End, the Festival of New Musicals in Issaquah, WA., the York Theatre in NYC and originally at the Wilton Playshop in Connecticut. By special request from the Gershwin Estate, Bev and husband Kirby Ward were invited to guest star with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in Gershwin: The Political Operettas where their rendition of "I've Got a Crush On You" stopped the show. She has performed for British Royalty, as well as First Ladies Hilary Clinton and Laura Bush. Bev's EP of folk/pop music, "Bev's Noble House of Pancake," is available on iTunes and Spotify. Bev is also a visual artist and has had several showings of her work in and around New England.

MORE ABOUT Rubicon Theatre Company

Rubicon Theatre Company has been described as "the rising star of the Southern California cultural constellation." A not-for-profit professional regional theatre which has reached more than 480,000 attendees, Rubicon serves area residents and visitors with innovative productions of classic and contemporary plays, as well as a wide array of educational programs and events.

Acclaimed by critics and industry professionals, the company has received the L.A. Drama Critics Margaret Harford Special Award for "Sustained Excellence," two Drama Desk Awards, and more than 20 Ovation Awards from the former L.A. Stage Alliance.

Prior to the pandemic, Rubicon transferred three shows to New York (Wiesenthal - Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award nominations; Lonesome Traveler - Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award nominations; and Daddy Long Legs (Drama Desk Award). The company's production of The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman by David Zippel was a prior transfer and Drama Desk Award Winner. Rubicon has welcomed a steady stream of high-profile actors and directors to the stage, including BRUNO BIRCHIR, ODISEO BIRCHIR, SUSAN CLARK, Dana Delany, Conchata Ferrell, Harold Gould, Joel Grey, Larry Hagman, Bill Irwin, Jack Lemmon, Justina Machado, Amanda McBroom, Ted Neeley, Paul Provenza, Linda Purl, Rondi Reed, John Ritter, Joe Spano, Bruce Weitz, Lillias White, Efrem Zimbalist, JR. AND Stephanie Zimbalist and others. Company members are George Ball, Joseph Fuqua and Jenny Sullivan.

Based in Ventura's Downtown Cultural District, just blocks from the Pacific Ocean, Rubicon resides in a 185-seat historic church built in the 1920s. In this renovated historic landmark, audience members are never further than 10 rows from the stage on the main floor. (The balcony, which seats twenty, is available for private parties or corporate groups.)

True to the company's name and the vision of founding artistic directors Karyl Lynn Burns and JAMES O'NEIL, Rubicon has created an environment where commitment and risk are encouraged, and where artists are nurtured and respected. As a result, the company has gained a reputation for invigorating interpretations of the classics and for supporting the development of new works. Rubicon presents at least one World Premiere each season, as well as readings of works-in-progress.

Deeply rooted in the region it serves, Rubicon offers extensive outreach programs, including daytime matinees for high school students, after-school and weekend programs for at-risk youth, and summer musical theatre, drama and technical camps. More than 53,000 students have benefited.

A board of directors of prominent social and civic leaders governs Rubicon under the leadership of DOUG HALTER. The company is also supported by an advisory group of regional ambassadors and a volunteer auxiliary.

For more information about Rubicon Theatre Company, or to purchase tickets, call (805) 667-2900 or go to www.rubicontheatre.org. The theatre is located at 1006 E. Main Street in Ventura's Downtown Cultural District.


To post a comment, you must register and login.