Jim Petosa is the Artistic Director of Olney Theatre Center, a post he has held since 1993. Over the years, he has produced such megahits as Annie, Grease, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and the upcoming production of The Sound of Music. Recent plays produced at Olney include Opus, Bus Stop and Witness for the Prosecution. His directorial credits include The Glass Menagerie, Copenhagen, and The Laramie Project. When not at Olney, Mr. Petosa has been the artistic and educational leader of the Boston University School of Theatre since 2002.
How does one juggle two jobs in two locations that are not even close to each other? Read on and you will see how Jim figured it all out.
How did you become the Artistic Director of Olney Theatre Center?
I first directed for the organization through its young actor program the National Players Touring Company. That was back in 1980, co-directed with now Chairman Emeritus William H. Graham. Bill and I developed an artistic partnership that followed the years through to this day. I started working at Olney in 1985, as Artistic Director for National Players. That led to being Producing Director in 1990 and then Artistic Director in 1993. As I will be completing my current term in December of 2012, that will complete 32 years of association with the organization.
Is there a method to the way you choose your season?
It depends on the era. Now, the choice is based on response to the community and its perceived needs and desires. The result of this approach has been extraordinary. Record audiences and ticket sales have given the theatre company real steps to financial stability to help insure that the theatre will be here serving its community for many years to come.
Is it hard running a theatre while keeping a schedule at Boston University?
I’m in my tenth and final year of splitting my life between the two. I have thoroughly enjoyed spanning to two endeavors, always finding synergies that made each one an asset for the other. Physically, it takes its toll in travel weariness, but it has been a pleasure. I do take some pleasure in looking forward to the end of this term, though, which will allow more focus on what I am doing in Boston.
What are some of your favorite productions you have either produced or directed at Olney?
Oh, that is hard. Off the top of my head, I remember productions like Copenhagen, The Laramie Project, Democracy, The Secret Garden, Secret Rapture, Racing Demon, Amadeus, Equus, Opus, The Glass Menageriem Brel, Collected Stories, Sight Unseen, and Shadowlands. My God…lots of humanity in these plays!….and on and on…all with enormous affection. But, ultimately, it is the people – the collaborators – when I try to list them…the people with whom I share such remarkable experiences, artists and friends sharing lives….that’s what I treasure the most.
What are your greatest accomplishments so far?
I seldom think in those terms, so this question doesn’t answer easily. Is it the campus? The PTP residency? The collaborative relationships? The body of work? I guess it’s all those things….but those don’t really belong to me alone. They are all shared accomplishments. And isn’t that what theatre is, ultimately? Honestly, I think my greatest personal accomplishment has been maintaining a robust conviction for the endeavor, itself. I feel as passionate about the art form as I did when I was a young director in my 20s. I hope that I have used the opportunities I have been given well, and I hope that I have been generous in providing opportunities for others. When I look back – which I try not to – I generally end up with a smile on my face. And when I look forward – I generally feel excited and energized. That’s it.