Michael J. Bobbitt is the Artistic Director of Adventure Theatre. The company produces high quality family productions with some of DC’s biggest names. That is no small feat. He is also an accomplished choreographer having recently completed Ain’t Misbehavin’ for the Washington Savoyards. As a writer his Mirandy and Brother Wind for Adventure and The Stephen Schwartz Project for No Rules Theatre Company have garnered raves from critics and audiences alike.
You have a nice mix of known titles and brand new shows at Adventure Theatre. How do you pick your season?
It’s a very complicated and time consuming process. First and foremost, I have to like the show or title When I started in 2007, Adventure Theatre had a patron base of about 18,000. I knew that I needed to build this and build this quickly, so I decided that we would only produce plays that were adapted from popular children’s stories (this included films and songs as well). We also wanted to focus on a younger patron base because our friends at Imagination Stage and The Kennedy Center were focusing on slightly older audiences. This worked. We are now serving more than 65,000 patrons.
OK, back to your question. Adaptations for the younger set gave me a limited pool of possibilities. A few times a year, I check the NY Times Best-Selling children’s books and the Montgomery County Schools’ reading lists. Both of these help to narrow down the list. I consider cast size. the ideal number is 2-6 actors. I look at technical abilities. (Even though Rudolph was supposed to fly, we came up with a really cool substitute.) And then I look to balance commercial titles with those that I feel could support a more artistic interpretation. It’s a precarious balancing act. We have a lot of commissions this year, mostly because we are running out of titles that fit our purviews and secondly, it helps to endear/promote Adventure Theatre on a national level when you are adding scripts to the genre.
Do you feel there is a shortage of good family theatre in the DC area?
No, it’s the opposite. Washington DC is possibly leading the field on quality children’s programming. I’m proud of the work that comes out of this area. What’s really great is that like adults, children have options and children can see great children’s theatre at a number of different venues. The field is growing nationally, theatres all around the country are programming Family Friendly shows and funders are encouraging them to do so. Because the field is growing, so is the quality of the work, both on the producing side and the writing side. It’s exciting.
Jerry Whiddon, Felicia Curry and Michael Russotto are all working for you this season. Is it hard to get the big names to come and work at Adventure?
So far so good. I think we have been consistent enough and the word has gotten out enough that people want to work for us. In fact, and it’s always a surprise, I’m finding that there are many established artists (actors, directors and designers) that really want to work for us. I’m coming after Gero, Robinette, and Jacobson.
What is your favorite piece that Adventure has premiered?
Yikes, you are asking me to split my babies! For the art, my childhood memories and the production, maybe Red Balloon, but Mirandy and Brother Wind was a bit of an experiment. It was Adventure Theatre’s first African American play in its 59 year history. It worked, our regular patrons supported it, and 65 % of our patron base was African American. Those Patrons are continuing to return to the theatre.
What do you think is your greatest accomplishment so far?
Mirandy…, for the same reasons mentioned above. Just A Dream, the green play and it’s tour to Singapore (Adventure Theatre’s first international experience), The Happy Elf, working with three Tony Award-winning artists on the same show. There are so many others.
Adventure Theatre’s website.
Michael J. Bobbitt previews Adventure Theatre’s 2011-2012 season on Maryland Theatre Guide.
Originally published, October 21, 2011.