Aisle Seat Review and our readers are enjoying a new series of question-and-answer interviews with prominent Bay Area theater people.
Our goal is not to subject you the reader to extended portentous sermons of the guest’s views on Russian translations of lesser-known Mamet flash drama (is there such a thing?)
Too often the people who guide and make theater in the Bay Area are behind the scenes — fast-moving denizens of the curtain lines who mumble into microphones while invariably (always excepting Carl Jordan’s beret collection…) dressed head-to-toe in black. These interviews allow you, the reader, to get to know these amazingly talented people a bit more, as…people.
Offering some personal and professional insights: with a heavy dash of humor, this is Aisle Seat Review’s Not So Random Question Time.
For many years, Kim Taylor was the most prolific and hardest-working publicist in Bay Area theater. The former newspaper scribe went out on her own in 1999 and was soon representing companies all over the North Bay—including the Mountain Play, Marin Shakespeare Company, Novato Theater Company, Ross Valley Players, Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 6th Street Playhouse, Hoochi-Doo Productions, Porchlight Theatre Company, and Transcendence Theatre Company, many of them with productions opening simultaneously—a sometimes grueling schedule that she managed almost alone.
A lifelong theater enthusiast, Taylor is renowned for her professionalism and attention to detail. Her pre-show feasts and meet-and-greet affairs were among reviewers’ most enjoyable events. She retired from public relations work this past December, capping an unsurpassed twenty-year career. We miss you, Kim!
ASR: How did you get started in theater?
KT: In grammar school and participating in summer recreation theater programs.
ASR: What was the first play you performed in or directed for a paying audience?
KT: In high school I played Mama Rose in “Gypsy.”
ASR: How many theater companies have you been involved with?
KT: As a publicist, I have represented more than twenty companies including college, university and community, semi-professional and professional theater companies. During my career I represented over 450 theater productions.
ASR: When was your present company formed?
KT: After working more than twelve years in the newsroom of the Marin Independent Journal, I launched a career as a freelance publicist in 1999. I retired in December 2019.
ASR: Did you anticipate that it would become as successful as it did?
KT: Most of my career I had to juggle several clients including musical groups, theater companies and entertainment events. I ended my career working exclusively as publicist for Transcendence Theatre Company.
ASR: Does your company have a special focus, i.e., genre/historical period, contemporary, experimental, emerging playwrights, etc.?
KT: As a publicist I represented every genre including Shakespeare, Broadway musicals, opera, American classics, comedy, new works and experimental theater.
ASR: Who had the largest impact on your professional development in the theater?
KT: Harvey Susser and James Dunn, College of Marin Drama Department.
ASR: What are some of your favorite dramas? Musicals? Comedies?
KT: Drama: “Dodsworth.” Broadway musical: “Guys and Dolls,” “Cabaret,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Evita.” Comedy: “An Ideal Husband,” “The 39 Steps” and “Bullshot Crummond.”
ASR: Name three all-time favorites that your company has produced.
KT: My favorite client productions include the Spreckels Theatre Company 2013 production of “Mel Brooks New Musical Young Frankenstein,” the Porchlight Theatre Company 2008 outdoor production of “Under Milk Wood,” and the 6th Street Playhouse 2011 production of “Cabaret.”
ASR: Which play would you most like to see put into deep freeze for 20 years?
KT: “Death of a Salesman” – I find it too depressing.
ASR: Which rare gems would you like to see revived?
KT: I would love to see “Dodsworth” revived with the story re-set in the 21st Century.
…”When did Ma get a cat?”
ASR: What is Shakespeare’s most underrated play? Why?
KT: “King John.” I enjoy the play’s wickedly witty comedy.
ASR: Shakespeare’s most over-performed play?
KT: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
ASR: If you had to do a whole season performing technical work—sets, lights, projections, sound, props, costumes—which would it be and why?
KT: Costumes. I have always been interested in styles of period and historic garments.
ASR: As hard as it may be to pick just one, can you name a Bay Area actor who you think does amazing work?
KT: Actress Mary Gannon Graham. Also actor Tim Kniffin.
ASR: How do you warm up before a performance? How do you relax after?
KT: As a publicist, I could relax only after reviews were published.
ASR: If someone asked to be your apprentice and learn all that you know, what three things would you tell them are essential?
KT: Plan well in advance and meet your deadlines. Check and double-check press release details to avoid errors. Always thank the media for coverage.
ASR: What theater-related friendship means the most to you? Why?
KT: Dan Taylor, editor/reporter for Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat. We have newsroom experience in common and both of us enjoy and appreciate theater and performing arts.
ASR: What is the funniest screw-up you’ve seen on stage in a live performance?
KT: In 2004, a wayward tabby got lost in the Ross Valley Players’ Barn Theatre and made an unexpected appearance during a performance of the company’s production of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers,” stealing the scene from three actors as it delighted a packed audience.
Set in the Yonkers apartment of the stern Grandma Kurnitz, actors Bruce Vieira (as Uncle Louie Kurnitz), David Abrams and Kyle Lemle (as his nephews, Jay and Arty Kurnitz) were half way through a significant scene when the cat made its cameo appearance striding across the living room set.
The audiences’ uproarious reaction startled the cat to exit stage left. After a comic beat, veteran actor Vieira restored order with a brilliant improvisation.
“When did Ma get a cat?” asked Vieira of his fellow actors, before he continued the scene. Vieira’s quick wit was hilarious and restored order allowing the scene to continue.
ASR: The most excruciating screw-up?
KT: I’ve seen several productions of the musical “Annie” where Sandy the dog would not cooperate.
ASR: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen a guest do at the theater?
KT: At a studio theater performance of “The 39 Steps” an audience member commented loudly throughout Act I about the quick changes.
ASR: What are your interests outside of theater?
KT: My grandson, old movies, vintage music, family genealogy and photography.
ASR: Do you follow other arts—music, film, dance, painting/sculpture? Do you actively do any other arts apart from theater?
KT: My husband and I enjoyed vintage dancing for many years. The bands we followed played popular music of the 1920s and 1930s. We learned vintage dances, dressed in period clothing, and attended dance events presented in spectacular venues, including the Avalon Ballroom on Catalina Island.
ASR: You have the opportunity to create a 30-minute TV series. What’s it called and what’s the premise?
KT: “For Immediate Release” – Endless dramatic and comedic material and an array of characters (actors, producers, directors, reviewers, etc.) would fuel this episodic series following the adventures of a freelance publicist representing theater companies in the San Francisco Bay Area.
ASR: What three songs are included on the soundtrack to your life? And why each?
KT: “Don’t Say Goodbye,” 1932 – featuring vocals by Al Bowlly with Ray Noble and his New Mayfair Orchestra. The song is from “Wild Violets,” a musical comedy operetta written by Robert Stolz. I love the clever arrangement by Ray Noble. “Pick Yourself Up,” 1936 – music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Dorothy Fields. “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” 1936 – music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.
ASR: A fashion accessory you like better than others?
ASR: Theater people often pride themselves on “taking risks”— have you any interest in true risk taking, such as rock climbing, shark diving, bungee jumping, skydiving?
KT: I have no interest in “true” risk taking, but I took a lot of risks in my work as a publicist.
ASR: Favorite quote from a movie or stage play?
KT: “Love has got to stop some place short of suicide.” ~ Sam Dodsworth, from the “Dodsworth” book, play and film.
ASR Executive Editor Barry Willis is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and president of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.