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For Many, Gaslamp Won’t Be Same Without Goldman

For many patrons of the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company, Producing Director Kit Goldman was the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company. She was always unfailingly on hand to greet opening-night arrivals, to give speeches after the show, to travel into various communities to tirelessly drum up support for the theater she helped found 11 years ago.

Goldman, who leaves her post today to pursue projects in the for-profit sector, and the Gaslamp were inseparable.

Times have been hard, particularly during the past three years. The Gaslamp is still struggling to recover from its financial reverses.

Goldman said she is leaving without any hard feelings and gave Managing Director Steve Bevans her complete endorsement. She plans to continue as a member of the board of trustees and a founding director.

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“We’ve gone through some hellish times, but it’s also been a very joyous experience,” she said at the Gaslamp. “I wouldn’t have given up any of these 11 years. Not even the very hardest. It’s been the agony and the ecstasy.”

She said that part of the reason she was resigning was emotional.

“It’s kind of classic that the energy that it takes to create something is oftentimes different fro m the energy it takes to lead the company when it reaches a certain level of maturity. . . . for the people who till the really hard soil and carve out the niche, the very process is so depleting. It takes such enormous resources--financial, emotional, psychic--that oftentimes the people who do that, who carve out the frontier, are not here to enjoy the good times.

“Certainly in hindsight, there are many things I might have done differently, but there are zero regrets because I know I’ve given it everything I’ve got and never withheld anything. I’ve got my personal life, finances and blood tied up with this theater. I’ve left out nothing in my attempts to make it work.”

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She remembers with pride some of the theater’s greatest successes. In the Gaslamp’s second show, “Babes in Arms,” she had 18 people tap dancing in the depth of the summer in her tiny 90-seat house. “There was no air conditioning and the actors were sucking up all the oxygen, but it was a huge hit that ran and ran and ran and let us know what it felt like to have the phones ringing off the hook.”

Over the years, the company garnered its share of critical and popular acclaim--for shows such as “Betrayal,” “The Foreigner” “I’m Not Rappaport,” “Nuts” and “Private Lives,” which won a San Diego Critics Circle Award for Rosina Widdowson-Reynolds as Best Actress. It developed a reputation for nurturing local talent and it was one of the first theaters in town to pay its actors year-round.

As an example of how close Goldman is to her theater, in the 11 years since Gaslamp opened its doors, she has marked major passages in her life by the seven shows in which she performed or by the 90-plus she produced at the Gaslamp’s two theaters.

Her marriage (to developer Dan Pearson) and pregnancy (with son Adam) occurred during her performance in a run of Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels” in 1982. The death of her mother who, in the early days of the Gaslamp worked as Goldman’s box office manager, happened during her performance in George Bernard Shaw’s “Candida” in 1984.

She remembers both “vividly,” she said.

“ ‘Fallen Angels’ ran for 12-13 weeks and they kept having to let my costume out. Fortunately it was a box suit.”

Because her mother was ill during the run of “Candida,” she and actress D’Ann Paton alternated in the lead role. That turned out to save the play when another actress, Rebecca Nachison, had to leave the show in the final week. Goldman filled in for Nachison, while Paton played Candida.

Then, too, there is the memory of the building of the Gaslamp’s two venues, the first 90-seat space on 454 Fourth Ave in May of 1980 and the 250-seat Hahn Cosmopolitan in 1986.

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The small space cost $25,000 and a lot of sweat volunteer labor to transform into a theater space. It is currently being transformed into a cabaret space/dinner theater.

The Hahn Cosmopolitan was a pricier enterprise--a $3.4-million facility financed by Gaslamp donors, a limited partnership and a bank loan. It was a year after the Hahn went up that the Gaslamp began to go into the red. A number of factors, from the recession, to a lack of parking, to the transitional nature of the Gaslamp location to the company’s difficulty in paying the rent at the Hahn--$10,000 a month--have all been cited as factors in the company’s current financial problems.

Goldman, who was managing director during the company’s first decade, is leaving, in part, because she sees her leaving as part of the solution. A round-table of artistic advisers will take over her job of selecting plays for next season.

“I feel very good about it,” she said. “On a very deep and intuitive level, I feel it’s the best thing to do for everyone. In a way the theater is like a child to me and one of my strengths as a mother is to let my child grow up. My conviction is strong and enduring, but it’s time to take on a different role.”

Looking for Revenge: Adleane Hunter, a member of the new round-table of artistic advisers who has just started working with the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company, will offer a free staged reading of one project under consideration: “The Woman From the Town” by Samm-Art Williams, playwright of “Home,” performer (star of “Frank’s Place”) and producer (of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”)

The show, a contemporary take-off on Freidrich Durrenmatt’s 1958 play, “The Visit,” is about a woman, drummed out of town for being pregnant out of wedlock, who returns years later seeking revenge on the town and the man who wronged her. The show, will be presented at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre.

PROGRAM NOTES: “The God of Isaac,” a staged play reading about a Jewish reporter covering the neo-Nazi march in Skokie, Ill., in the late 1970s, written by and starring James Sherman (a graduate of Chicago’s Second City), will debut Monday at the Carlsbad Community Cultural Arts Center. Call 457-3030. . . .

“Maski,” a 12-person Russian comedy troupe that had to cancel its California debut in August when the State Department and the INS refused them work visas, is on its way back with its new show, “Non-Stop-Clown.” The company will make its West Coast debut in San Diego at Beth Israel Temple on Nov. 6, at San Diego State University on Nov. 7, the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art on Nov. 9, the La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas on Nov. 10 and Escondido’s Patio Playhouse on Nov. 12.

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CRITIC’S CHOICE: PROVOCATIVE THEATER OFFERING

What happens when seven sexually provocative photographs wind up on the desk of Sen. Bob in Washington? For one thing, in Sledgehammer Theatre’s slick, witty production of the world premiere of Mac Wellman’s “7 Blowjobs,” mayhem ensues.

For a sharp satiric look at political censorship, the funniest and deadliest take in town is in a one-time downtown parking garage at 843 Tenth Ave. that Sledgehammer has carved into San Diego’s newest theater space. The show has just been extended through Nov. 17. At the 10th Avenue Garage, between E and F streets downtown, 544-1484.


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