Theatre Aspen CEO Jed Bernstein sheds light on the summer season and his programming process.
Guys & Dolls runs through Aug. 17.
In well-worn hiking boots and khakis, Jed Bernstein, Theatre Aspen’s producing director of one year, looks, if not yet like an Aspen native, then like someone who regularly spends time here. He’d arrived from Manhattan, where he lives part time, for Theatre Aspen’s summer season two days earlier; it was mid-May and snow was predicted for the weekend. The Red Brick Center for the Arts, where Theatre Aspen keeps its offices, is a long way from the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, where Bernstein was president and CEO from 2014-16, but he says he loves the cultural intensity of Aspen and its intimacy. Aspen has the “heft” of a giant place, he says, but also a small-town Fourth of July parade. He’s already thinking about Theatre Aspen’s float.
His mission is to raise Theatre Aspen’s national profile and help it find a “solid visible place in the [theater] ecosystem.” This season’s productions run the spectrum from the sweet to serious, and he dishes here on each of them. Guys & Dolls, June 21-Aug. 17; Little Shop of Horrors, July 11-Aug. 17; God of Carnage, July 17-Aug. 3; Hurst Theatre
“Guys & Dolls is more of a confection. It’s on the traditional and happy end of the spectrum. The same analysis would apply to The Little Shop of Horrors, another iconic show, with a rock-’n’-roll score as opposed to a classical musical score.”
“God of Carnage is the story of two couples who live in Brooklyn whose children are fighting in school. [The couples] ostensibly meet to smooth that over, and, of course, they begin to fight among themselves. It’s very funny and evocative of parents we all know and children we all know.”
“The science of choosing shows for a summer theater season is not much of a science; it’s more like alchemy. Sometimes it’s driven by wanting to work with a particular artist, whether that’s a director or an actor. Sometimes it’s because the subject of a play or musical seems especially right for a location or a moment in time. Sometimes, when you’re casting a season that is often a repertory season, you have to take into account that the people who are cast in Guys & Dolls are also going to have to perform in other shows.”
“One is always striving for balance. This is such an interesting puzzle to try to solve. You’ve got a community that is incredibly culturally intense and has great resources. You’ve got a theater that is definitely ready for the next step in its evolution. Figuring out how to take that step, figuring out what the elements are—if you’re somebody who loves to produce, and you’re somebody who loves to lead institutions—it’s a really cool thing to think about.”