Ensemble Theatre Opens Its New Season
by Charles Donelan
Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC), Santa
Barbara’s oldest continuously operating Actors’ Equity Association
theater, opens its new season this week with Harold Pinter’s
Betrayal. ETC also has a new executive artistic director, Jonathan
Fox, with whom I spoke last week. He’s an impressive guy — warm and
intelligent, very business-like, and fun to talk to. He’s also a
world-class director with a string of successes behind him at Two
River Theatre in Manasquan, New Jersey, where he was also executive
artistic director. ETC, which has a history of backstage drama
involving its directorship, is thus embarking on an interesting
hand-off season, with the departing artistic director, veteran
Robert Grand-Weiss, directing the first show, and the incoming
Jonathan Fox directing the last.
Pinter’s Betrayal, known worldwide for its reverse chronological
structure, is one of the greatest modern tragedies, taking the
audience deep inside the lives and emotions of three people caught
in a devastating erotic triangle. Ann Noble will play Emma, Hayden
Adams is Robert, and Geoffrey Lower is Jerry. In an unusual move
for ETC, they chose to cast this show through a casting agent; the
result is three L.A.-based actors in the main parts, complemented
by Santa Barbara’s own Lawrence Duff as the waiter. If you like
Pinter, it should be terrific. If you don’t, it will probably still
be pretty good.
The rest of the season is looking exciting as well. The
skeptical examination of marriage begun by Betrayal continues in
November and December with Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife,
directed by Peter Lackner. The Memory of Water, the acclaimed Irish
play that was a big hit in London, will be helmed by Jenny
Sullivan. The final two shows of the year are The Violet Hour by
Richard Greenberg and This Is How It Goes by Neil LaBute, which
will be the new executive artistic director’s directorial debut.
Break a leg, Jon. Interest in ETC tends to run high among those in
Santa Barbara’s professional theater scene. Below are a few of the
exchanges I had with Jonathan Fox about the larger direction of the
theater that should be of interest to the community.
How did you decide to do this, and what
are your plans? When I looked at the programming that ETC has done
in the last few years I was delighted that I saw all these
similarities and overlaps with Two River Theatre, where I was at
the time. For instance, I directed Betrayal at Two River 10 years
ago. I saw that there’s been a very high intellectual level to
what’s been produced here by ETC, and that is what got me
interested. Now that I am here, I want to use that tradition as a
starting point and develop new things from that. I am particularly
interested in potential collaborations, both national and
Are you thinking of anything in particular right now for a
collaboration? I’m directing a show in Vienna in the spring that’s
not for ETC, but now we are talking about a production of that show
here for next season. Collaborations don’t just save money — they
also enhance the reputation of the company.
How are you working with ETC’s existing board of directors?
We’re going to get together soon to develop a strategic plan, and I
am making it my priority to develop the board.
Do you have a marketing plan? Part of our marketing plan is to
hire a marketing director. We’re searching now, and this will be a
full-time position — director of marketing and development. There
are also openings for a company manager and a box office
Are you nervous about coming into a company with such a strong
local history? It’s going to be a very exciting time. There are
going to be a lot of changes. I’m not going to neglect the 27-year
history here. I know that people love this theater, and I am happy
that people who do love the theater are encouraging me to bring
some new ideas to it.
What’s your feeling about your relationship with the board right
now? I feel that the board wants me to succeed. They want what I am
bringing to this organization, and so far I have felt nothing but
support. Some boards want people who will keep things the same, and
others want to change, and that’s what is happening here.
4•1•1 For more information about
the Ensemble Theatre Company and its upcoming season, visit