This Week's Focus is on IVRT's Co-Founder
October 6th, 2020—
It is an exception to see an artist discussing their craft with such candor and probity as this, and in this short dialogue, we attempt to find an even more revealing look into one of the most respected directors in Southern California—Frank Minano.
The award-winning IVRT (Inland Valley Repertory Theater) was actually formed in 1990 by Frank and his wife, Donna Marie. They developed a loyal audience almost immediately by being the first company in the region to produce such shows as “Sweeney Todd,” “Follies,” and “Amadeus."
After growing up in Upland and Claremont, Frank Minano did his undergraduate work at UC Irvine (class of ’85) and received an MBA at the University of La Verne. While in college, he attended the Summer Professional Conservatory at Costa Mesa’s Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory. “It was here that I met founding director Martin Benson, and many of the founding SCR Members,” he fondly recalls. “I fell in love with what this company did for Orange County and I wanted to build a similar nonprofit company in the Inland Empire.”
And the rest, so they say, is history. Since 2008, IVRT has made its home at the Candlelight Pavilion in Claremont, using a unique mid-week arrangement known as "set modification," that is, upcycling the sets that the Candlelight Pavilion uses for its dinner theatre on the weekends. It is an arrangement with which they have dealt exceedingly well, as 2020 marks their thirtieth anniversary.
Besides his work at IVRT, Minano also is an actor and serves as a freelance director for other theatrical companies, having directed productions like "Steel Magnolias," "On Golden Pond," "Side by Side" by Sondheim, "Fiddler On the Roof," and his adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" in 2007.
Simply put, Frank Minano has done it all—Founder, Producer, Artistic Director, Actor. We spoke recently about his most recent projects, expectations, uncertainty, and what challenges he now faces with the advent of Covid 19.
How are you coping with the pandemic in relation to your shows being postponed in production until this is over?
“By reinventing and reimagining everything we used to do and by staying in constant communication with our audience. Midway through our first show of the season, A Streetcar Named Desire, the pandemic forced us to close down. We began by doing a staged reading of Streetcar on Zoom. Then we added more and more staged readings as they became available. We gave our patrons the choice of donating their tickets, getting a voucher for future productions, or receiving a full refund. Our patrons have been extremely generous and understanding; only a handful opted for a refund. 2020 marked the 30th anniversary year for Inland Valley Repertory Theatre Company as a non-profit organization. While we were unable to meet and celebrate the way we originally planned, a documentary premiered on You Tube on the IVRT Channel with much enthusiasm and support! Going forward, with a very supportive and active board, we are planning a virtual representation of shows for 2021.”
Who do you look up to as your greatest creative inspiration?
“I look at this ‘dark time’ as way to be innovative and to learn – to grow and try new things. The through line to keep going for 30 years is the voice of my spiritual guide, the late Msgr. William Barry who told me ‘with IVRT you are serving the community!’”
What do you do when you’re not doing theatre?
“I read plays, cook, play cards, do some gardening and focus on the house, and spend time with family!”
If you had a magic wand, what show would you like to personally direct next?
“The Glass Menagerie, Sunday in the Park with George, Come From Away, The Humans.”
What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
“I would have to stay sustaining the company over 3 decades and connecting with the community while developing young talent to soar is pretty spectacular!”
What’s the first hook that gets you interested in directing or producing a new show? Is it an image, a theme, or perhaps a character?
“The ‘hook,’ if you will, is the story. Do people need to hear this story? I look at theatre as a place to be entertained, and also a place to learn, experience, grow and share.”
How do you normally approach casting a new play or musical, working with characterization and motivation with cast and crew, and making the play a relevant work of art?
“If you look at a play from the standpoint of its story, it is the story that needs to be relevant. Whether I am looking at one of the classics (an R&H musical or an Arthur Miller play) or any other story, we are living in 2020 so it needs to speak to today’s audience. Our modern culture may look different than it did 70 years ago, but human emotion hasn’t changed.”
What are some of your favorite plays or musicals?
“Come From Away and Bright Star. Favorite plays would be The Humans and Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike.”
What would you say to a fresh graduate who wants to pursue theatre as a career?
“The same thing that was told to me 35 years ago—if you want a career in this industry then you need to make your own work because you can’t wait for them to call you.”
How would you describe yourself in one word?
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
“I wish it wasn’t so expensive to produce quality productions.”
What, in your opinion, is the most important quality in a Director?
“Having a vision and coming in with your homework completed.”
What’s something you are really good at that few people know about?
“Once upon a time I had a pretty good singing voice.”
A critically acclaimed regional theater company, garnering widespread honors for its theatrical works, IVRT receives funding from the California Arts Council, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the city of Claremont, and the Claremont Educational Foundation, as well as from corporate and individual donors. More information may be found on the website at www.ivrt.org or by calling (909) 859-4878.
“The 30th Anniversary Celebration” was held virtually on Saturday, September 26 complete with a Red Carpet Reunion at 6pm and a Virtual Celebration at 7pm. Check out the video below for highlights.