Kickin' It with Chad Rabinovitz
Chad Rabinovitz is the Producing Artistic Director of the Adirondack Theatre Festival and Festival Director of the Adirondack Film Festival. Oh! We almost forgot — he’s also the Producing Artistic Director of the Bloomington Playwrights Project in Indiana. When he’s not producing new works, he’s directing productions. We’ve been lucky to work with him on some design projects for the Adirondack Theatre Festival and have always found him to be equally savvy and talented in creative direction as he is with the business side of things — a rarity! We wanted to learn more about his passion for theatre, how he manages it all, and when he sleeps. Read on to see how he does it all!
Sidekick: You have an amazing career and list of accomplishments in the creative field. How did you get here — what inspired you and led you down this path?
Chad: There’s so many things in my life that led me down this path that it’s hard to say. For one, I had extremely supportive parents who encouraged me to pursue anything I wanted…they of course hoped it was being a doctor, but when I said “I want to be a theatre major” my parents may have turned pale, but they didn’t pass out. I got into theatre because of my interest since childhood in magic, and I can still remember my mother trying to convince me that the dexterity I was using for sleight of hand tricks was perfect for becoming a plastic surgeon – NICE TRY MOM!!!!!!
I wasn’t an artsy kid. I wouldn’t have even thought of myself as creative until much later in life. I liked math a lot. And business. My parents at least won part of the battle when they convinced me to get both a theatre AND a business degree at the University of Pittsburgh. When I was there, I fell in love with directing. It was the first thing to truly combine the business side of my brain and the creative side. I found it incredibly challenging and stimulating, like nothing I had ever done before. It was like suddenly I was using every inch of my brain to solve problems and create art. As is par for the course with me, I got obsessed. So when I had directed more shows than any other student and the professors told me I couldn’t do another one, I raised money and rented the theatre from the university and produced my own work. That basically started my career – I left school and worked all over the country in some artistic capacity from that point on.
Throughout the years, my inspirations have changed, but my passion remains the same.
You’re making both business decisions and creative decisions on a daily basis. When those decisions get difficult or when you find yourself in a creative rut, what do you do to push forward and what advice to you have for others who find themselves in similar situations?
I feel like my one advantage in life is that I can approach a business problem from a creative angle and a creative problem from a business angle. When I find myself with a challenging problem, I just approach it from a ton of different directions – often times in ways that would be counterintuitive. I also – thanks to my obsessive personality – spend more time on a problem than most would. I don’t feel like I’m smarter, I’m just willing to spend a whole heck of a lot more time than a sane or rational human being on working out an optimal solution. So if I’m in a creative rut, I just think differently. It sounds weird, but I think we all do it. I truly get some of my best ideas in the shower. Or driving. When you have another task that you’re doing at the same time that you’re trying to solve a problem, your brain thinks differently. Or at least mine does. Your brain (or at least mine) is approaching the problem in a new way because part of it is dedicated to a different task.
As far as advice goes, it’s hard to say because I don’t know how other people think. But when all else fails, take a shower.
Not only are you producing the Adirondack Theatre Festival and Adirondack Film Festival in Glens Falls every year, but you’re simultaneously producing the Bloomington Playwrights Project in Indiana. How do you pull it off while maintaining a work/life balance?
Well you just pointed out my Achilles heel – I have no work/life balance. I can get more accomplished than most because I put more time in than most. I wish it was a better answer and that I’m super-human and can do more in a single work day than anyone else on the planet. But really my super power is insomnia and a strong work ethic. It’s 11:50pm right now as I write this and I’ve been working nonstop since I woke up at 7am. I’ll continue until about 2-3am or until I fall asleep at my computer. So please don’t model your life after me!
But that being said, I find great joy in what I do, and not all days are like today. I still find time to go out and have fun. And I try to stay active in hobbies outside of theatre so I’m not defined by one thing. I love learning about science and space exploration (I’m a proud graduate of Advanced Adult Space Camp). I’m a cake sculptor. I’m a candy connoisseur. I still do a bit of magic. I love board games. I’m continually trying to invent something that will get me on Shark Tank. And lately I’m obsessed with all things virtual reality. Although now that I’m writing these things down, I see it’s pretty clear that part of my tactic is to bring all of my interests into my theatre profession. You can see elements of all of them in either the theatre festival or the film festival. So maybe that’s the secret to success…who knows??!!
You host a large crew of interns every season. If you were an ATF intern, what’s one piece of advice that you would want to have?
I tell every intern on the first day that they can do just about anything and make more money than being an ATF intern. So the reason they’re here is to start building a career. If you do just what’s expected of you then that’ll never happen – making a living in theatre is about finding a way to stand out from the crowd.
I also tell them my all-too-true story about how I single-handedly destroyed a Steinway grand piano. So they know that no matter what they do, they can’t screw up more than me. So take chances.
What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
Without a doubt, it’s seeing the restaurants full and tons of people walking down Glen Street. It sounds cheesy, but while I love love love doing the shows, it’s seeing how ATF impacts Glens Falls that means the most to me. I care a great deal about making the place that we live a better place to live.
You bring a wide-range of shows to both the theatre and film festivals and definitely have an on-stage presence, but we wanted to find out what interests you off-stage.
Musicals or plays? I of course like both, and my favorite is whatever I’m currently working on, but if I had to choose, rock musicals are my favorite.
Favorite Broadway show? Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Favorite playwright? This seems like a trick question to make a lot of playwrights mad at me!
Favorite magic trick? Sponge balls
On stage or behind the scenes? Behind the scenes
How can we find out more about the 2019 ATF shows and buy tickets?
You can find out about our season at www.atfestival.org. It’s our 25th Anniversary Season so it’s a big one! Every single show is a hit just waiting to happen. So the only way to live is to subscribe. Take a note from my playbook and become obsessed. Subscribe. And they’re all new plays – what you see at ATF you can’t see anywhere else in the world. Subscribe. It’ll be the best time of your life. Subscribe. Subscribe. Subscribe.