Interview: Creative Cauldron Producing Director Laura Connors Hull

Creative Cauldron is celebrating 10 years in its current ArtSpace venue in Falls Church, VA and hopes to move to a new, slightly larger, Falls Church venue by 2022.

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Creative Cauldron is celebrating its 10th season performing at its ArtSpace venue in Falls Church. Creative Cauldron is one of the area’s small theater gems, with a consistently high quality along with the bold risk-taking of commissioning and producing original musicals.

Wanting to know more about Creative Cauldron including a possible new Falls Church home, I visited with Laura Connors Hull, the founder and producing director. This column is based upon our conversations.

Creative Cauldron Producing Director Laura Connors Hull. Photo by Gary Mester.
Creative Cauldron Producing Director Laura Connors Hull. Photo by Gary Mester.

David Siegel: Why did you decide to establish the Creative Cauldron in Falls Church?

Laura Connors Hull: I founded Creative Cauldron as an educational arts organization in 2002. After I launched Creative Cauldron, I started to envision a more multi-faceted organization – one that would produce and present professional theater and music as well as educational programs. I wanted to find ways to appeal to a diverse, multi-generational audience. I felt that the City of Falls Church was an untapped jewel. Developers were beginning to see Falls Church as a special place to create a vibrant community. There was agreement among the citizenry that the arts should be an integral part of this new development. That’s how ArtSpace Falls Church (our artistic home at Pearson Square) was born.

As you celebrate the 10th anniversary of performing at ArtSpace, what are some of the biggest accomplishments?

Our biggest accomplishment is that we have been able to attract some of the area’s finest talent to work and perform at the Cauldron. We have been able to stretch and grow artistically with each season, overcoming our limitations with creativity and imagination. We have fostered a loyal patron and donor base that continues to grow each year. They are the heart and soul of our work, and we appreciate how supportive they have been throughout our journey.

What have been some of the biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenge was opening the doors here at ArtSpace in the first place. We were launching a new theater with no track record in the middle of the deep recession of 2009. It was touch and go whether we would be able to attract the resources that we needed for our programs to flourish, but we came through, even launching our first Helen Hayes-eligible production to open the 2010-2011 season, a production of Nevermore, beautifully staged and directed by Matt Conner. That was a big leap for us from a budget and artistic standpoint. Its success helped us launch our professional productions going forward. We are re-mounting the production in October to open our celebratory 10th anniversary season.

Matt Conner. Photo courtesy of Creative Cauldron.
Matt Conner. Photo courtesy of Creative Cauldron.

Our second biggest challenge was just letting people know that we’re here. We received widespread positive, accolades and Helen Hayes nominations, and found that patrons were coming to us from all over the metro area, including some international visitors. Bit by bit, we grew awareness and credibility, and now we are frequently referenced as a “local gem.”

What led you to develop the Bold New Works series?

When we opened our doors at ArtSpace, I decided to focus our season programming on musicals, or plays in which music has a significant role in the storytelling. I feel passionately that music offers an almost primal connection. You can reach people with music in ways that you can never reach them with just dialogue. I think the most powerful musicals for me, have always been smaller, chamber musicals or revues. Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris had a profound impact on me as a young director and performer. I never forgot how powerful that experience was for an audience. I wanted to fill our season with these kinds of experiences.

When I started searching for small-cast musicals that we could feasibly produce in our intimate space, I realized that the canon available through the major leasing companies was woefully limited. We had an amazing resource with Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith in our artistic circle and approached them about a commission for a new musical work. Matt was established as a brilliant composer with works like Nevermore and he and his husband and artistic partner, Stephen Gregory Smith, had begun to collaborate on musical projects. Stephen, in addition to his talents as a performer, was a gifted writer. We created a 5-year project of unique, artful musicals called Bold New Works for Intimate Stages. The fifth and final Bold New Work musical, On Air, will premiere next May.

Stephen Gregory Smith. Photo courtesy of Creative Cauldron.
Stephen Gregory Smith. Photo courtesy of Creative Cauldron.

The Bold New Works have fully orchestrated scores, original cast albums and are available for licensing to other theaters and organizations, at reasonable and affordable rates. We recognized how challenging steep royalty fees can be when licensing a musical. We want to remove barriers that might keep these wonderful productions from being mounted by other companies. We also have a catalog of Bold New Works for Young Audiences musicals available for student and YPA productions.

I understand that there may be a new physical venue for Creative Cauldron sometime in the future.

Our current lease expires in June of 2019; our Board of Directors began to explore possibilities for a new, slightly larger home. They met with Rick Hausler of Insight Property Group and Todd Hitt of Kiddar Capital and began to discuss the possibility of including a 5,000 square foot black box theater space in their Broad and Washington Development.

Rick and Todd are exceptional developers with a proven track record in the arts. Both of them received the Arts Philanthropist of the Year Award from ArtsFairfax. They embraced the idea of including us in their development plan, viewing the new theater with its proximity to the State Theater as an anchor for a vibrant arts and entertainment district in the City of Falls Church.  Their plan was is now going through the site plan development. With any luck, they will break ground sometime next year and we will be able to move into our new home sometime in 2021 or 2022.

I’m looking forward to transitioning into our new home, working in a space that has been built out as a black box theater.

For more on Creative Cauldron’s 2018-2019 season, go online.

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