SARANAC LAKE - When the news broke recently that the co-founders of Pendragon Theatre, Bob Pettee and Susan Neal, would begin a year-long transition to new leadership before they leave the area, the Enterprise talked with new Managing Director David Zwierankin but couldn't get in touch with new Executive and Artistic Director Karen Lordi-Kirkham by press time.
Since then, the Enterprise had a chance to talk with the woman Pettee calls "a key element in the future of Pendragon" about her past experience with this theater and her plans for its future.
A regular director at Pendragon for the last 15 years, Lordi-Kirkham is the chair of the Theatre and Dance Department at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. She will continue to teach there and work with Pendragon in the summer, though a sabbatical will allow her to be in residence in Saranac Lake from spring 2014 through summer 2015. At some point she will relocate to the area, according to a press release from Pendragon.
The following is an email exchange with Lordi-Kirkham.
ADE: What are you looking forward to with your future with Pendragon?
KLK: I am very excited to take this next step in my relationship to this theater. I first saw Bob and Susan onstage when I was a child at the (now closed) Adirondack Mountain School in Long Lake, where my family had a summer rental. Eventually, they bought a camp on Long Lake, and we continued to go see Pendragon perform, especially when they toured to Blue Mountain Lake. A strong memory for me is being allowed to "hang out" backstage with the actors on one of those tours. I subsequently decided to pursue theater as a career, and after graduate school I asked Bob and Susan if I could come and direct for them. That was over 15 years ago, and now, over 30 productions later, I am thrilled and honored to take over the care of this special institution that has been my artistic home for most of my professional career.
ADE: What challenges do you foresee?
KLK: The challenges will be many, but I think given my history with the organization, and the fact the Bob and Susan are still running things for another year, all will be much easier to deal with than coming in with no experience or opportunity for mentorship. Bob and Susan have been the face of this theater as its founders from the beginning and played many roles, onstage and off. I see this next year as a kind of apprenticeship to shadow them and get to know the institution and how things run in a way that I haven't been previously privy to. Most important is to remind the supporters of the theater that the best way to honor Bob and Susan's legacy to the arts and this community is to keep Pendragon running smoothly and assuring them that we are committed to the theater's mission and future health.
ADE: Do you have any plans for the theater yet? Or are you waiting to develop specific plans until it's closer to your time to take the helm?
KLK: My specific plans at this point are to learn as much as I can from Bob and Susan, to get to know the board and supports personally, and have the opportunity to talk with the company and friends of Pendragon, and get their perspectives on the past and present so we can build a strong future as a team.
ADE: Do you know when you might relocate to Saranac Lake?
KLK: For many years it has been our desire to be full-time residents of the Adirondacks. There are, of course, many personal and professional issues to work out before that becomes a reality, but we hope opportunities will arise to make such a move possible sooner rather than later. That said, given the flexibility of my academic calendar, the wonders of technology and the strong staff that is here full-time, I feel very confident with the set-up as it currently stands.