Arts » Performing Arts

Leading The Children

New AD still has the fire

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It took Children's Theatre over two years to realize that their most respected director, Alan Poindexter, was the right man to pick up the reins and become the company's new artistic director. But don't blame CT's board -- or executive director Bruce LaRowe -- for searching so long before reaching this obvious conclusion.

Ask Poindexter. He freely admits that it took him nearly as long to reach the same realization.

"I'm very thankful for the time that the Theatre has taken for this search," he confides. "When this search began, I certainly thought it was a role that I shouldn't step into. But as we began to look at the field -- and we had over 150 candidates -- it became clearer that, actually, it was a job that I could do. It's the job that I've sort of done in miniature form every time I direct a show."

Same job managing staff, anticipating what it will take to make CT productions click. With a bigger budget. And bigger responsibilities.

The very last thing some theater folk ever imagined Poindexter wearing was a necktie. It's going to happen. Poindexter cites two key turning points last fall that convinced him to become a candidate for the AD position at the Morehead Street fantasy palace.

First, Poindexter overcame his misgivings about spearheading CT's development -- putting on a tie and representing the company in the community and in the national arena. All of this was particularly daunting when you consider the historic collaboration between CT and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library, which will share the new $42.5 million Children's Learning Center on Brevard and 7th Streets, scheduled to open in time for the 2004-2005 season. The whole country will be focused on this audacious joint venture.

"For the past nine months, I've been serving in what you would call an interim capacity to sort of lead issues that we need to be looking at with the Public Library," Poindexter explains. "And that's probably where the true gift that they gave me came. I did start to get more involved with the board and get involved in the grant writing aspect of the company, and these things became not-so-scary to me, they didn't seem like things I couldn't accomplish. The turning point for me came late in the fall once I had been involved in every aspect of the company that I was worried about. I feel confident that what I don't know I can learn and what I do know is valuable enough to that development team that I have something to offer."

The other breakthrough Poindexter experienced was in his work as a director. Always a favorite with young teen performers, the one-time wunderkind now reaching mid-life had been perceived as too demanding -- and temperamental -- to work successfully with kids. Now he realizes that making the experience good is as important as making the show good. The transformation was sealed in last fall's production of Lily's Purple Plastic Purse, featuring some of the finest children's ensemble acting ever seen in Charlotte.

"That's the first time I can truly say that a group of kids had a really good time working with me," Poindexter candidly admits. "They weren't intimidated by me; they felt like a part of a group that I was including them in. So that was a really important step. There was a time in my life when I just wanted to do my work, and I ignored my community, so to speak. And I think that's what Children's Theatre has allowed me to find -- opening me to people."

But a necktie? What consolation can Poindexter offer to those of us who remember his cutting-edge guerrilla theater productions at the old Pterodactyl Club?

"It's just another costume -- and none of the fire is going to go away."

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