By KJ Philp, October 2017 Web Exclusives
With more than 40 year of experience, ranging from reviewing and producing to directing and instructing, Seth Reines had now added Echo columnist to his dynamic resume.
Reines, who earned Bachelor’s and Master’s of fine arts degrees from the University of Georgia, and has completed additional classes towards Ph.D. at Ohio University and Northwestern University, moved to the Valley in 2001 to open Broadway Palm West Dinner Theatre as its artistic producer. Still, he finds the time to visit New York twice a year and sets out to take in five showed each visit.
Echo caught up with Reines between his location indoors and out-of-state jaunts to find put more about his passion for the performing arts and what this freelance writer/director plans to bring to Echo‘s Opening Nights column, and here’s what he had to say.
Echo: How would you describe your evolution – from writer and teacher to director and producer?
Reines: It’s not really an evolution. All those roles are intertwined. As I director, I teach. As a producer, I write. I love all those aspects of my career.
Echo: At what age did you first take a liking to theater? Was there a specific title or experience you can recall?
Reines: When I was 10 years old, I saw my first show on Broadway, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fiorello! I walked out of the theatre, into the street and was almost hit by a taxi. If I had died at that moment, I thought, at that time, my life would have been complete.
As a kid, I built a small model stage. I would see shows on Broadway and then try to recreate the set in miniature. I was fascinated with the mechanics of moving sets!
Echo: What is it about theater that you fell in love with?
Reines: It is a collaborative art form, so you to work with many different artists – writers, designers, composers, musical directors, choreographers and, of course, actors. And, as an art form, theater transports you to other worlds and, hopefully, broadens your horizons.
Echo: You’ve been involved in theater scenes in many cities, can you recall your favorite community to be involved with and why?
Reines: I loved Madison, Wis., except in the winter! It is a beautiful, liberal city and very supportive of the arts.
Echo: Explain why LGBTQ representation in theater/the arts is important to you.
Reines: Diversity adds richness the theatre/art scene and provides a wider view of our world. It is especially important in today’s crazy world that all peoples are being represented fairly and equally. Members of the LGBTQ theatre community have always spoken out against social injustice.
Echo: How would you summarize the importance of the LGBTQ community’s support for the arts?
Reines: We must support all art forms. Historically, the art world has provided members of our community a safe haven and forum for our voice. Plus, art celebrates our humanity!
Echo: What advice would you give to aspiring theater types reading this, especially those who identify as LGBTQ?
Reines: As a college instructor, I always used to tell my students “Act only if you want to act more than you want to eat!” My advice now: 1. Discover what makes you unique as a person and develop that as your strength. 2. Train, train, train! 3. Be patient, you won’t become a star overnight. 4. Have a back-up trade or skill to help support your quest for a career in theater.
Echo: What are some essential elements that a great show must have, in your opinion?
Reines: First and foremost, a vision and point of view. Theater must be about something, hopefully something of importance.
Echo: What’s your most memorable theater related experience?
Reines: Directing Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday In The Park With George‘s 10th anniversary tour.
Echo: What’s your favorite show of all time?
Reines: Man of La Mancha.
Echo: What’s your favorite show soundtrack of all time?
Echo: Would you like to introduce us to your partner and pets?
Reines: I have been with my partner, JR McAlexander, an amazing musical director and my best friend, for 25 years. He is truly the most generous, honest human being I have ever met. His only agenda is kindness to others. He keeps me grounded and has made me a better man.
After one particularly stressful work week, I came home and said to JR, “Either I get a therapist on Monday or a dog this weekend.” We rescued a Wheaton Terrier named Zoe. She was a puppy mill, kennel bound and bearing three litters before she was even supposed to be bred. Zoe has been my therapist for the past seven years!
Echo: One thing our readers might like to know is that you take two trips to New York to catch shows on Broadway each year. Tell us about what you have planned for your next trip.
Reines: We hope to see last year’s Tony Award-winners Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away! plus the revival of M. Butterfly. We usually see at least five shows every time we visit NYC.
Echo: Did you say you’ve also flown to London for a show? You have to share a little bit about that story here: How far have you traveled to catch a show?
Reines: While I served as casting director for Theatre Management Group in Chicago (1983-1985), I would often fly to NYC, see a show on Broadway, meet with the cast and original director and then help recast the Chicago production.
I’ve traveled to London twice in the past five years to catch shows that were either pre-Broadway runs or being staged only in London. One year, Billy Elliot and Mary Poppins. Another year, Merry We Roll Along, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Top Hat and Cripple Of Inishmaan, which I was directing later that year.
Echo: Do you have any other projects coming up?
Reines: In December, I will be directing Music Man in concert at the Orpheum Theatre for Showtune Productions, my partner’s company. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the show’s opening on Broadway, the concert will feature the North Phoenix Chorale, a 17-piece orchestra, a cast of 20, scenic drops and costumes.
Echo: What are a couple things on your career and/or theater bucket list?
Reines: As I am semi-retired, I am fortunate that I only have to direct when I feel passionate about a project. In the future, I hope to continue collaborating on new theatrical pieces that, in some way, emotionally impact a diverse audience. Traveling the world remains high on my personal bucket list. I learn so much from observing other cultures.
Echo: Anything else you would like to add?
Reines: I am delighted that, as Echo’s theatrical contributor, I can, hopefully, encourage LGBTQ community to support live theatre in the Valley!