LAFAYETTE -- Entrances and exits reveal an actor's acuity -- depart too abruptly or too slowly, a scene's energy falls splat; barrel in prematurely or with uncertainty, a play's momentum suffers.
At Lafayette's Town Hall Theatre, outgoing Artistic Director Clive Worsley and incoming AD Derrick Silva are swinging through the gates with impeccable timing, born of years of careful preparation.
Worsley has been at the Town Hall helm since 2008 and is leaving to become Berkeley-based California Shakespeare Theater's director of artistic learning. He's been moonlighting with Cal Shakes, which performs at Orinda's Bruns Amphitheater, since 2002, leading the outdoor theater's student matinees and participating in its ambitious artist-in-the-schools and summer programs.
"What made the timing right is that Town Hall is now on secure footing and will be able to withstand the transition to new leadership and to position itself for further growth," Worsley said. Under his direction, the theater not only survived a flood and a plunging economy, but during Worsley's five years, its main stage productions received critical praise and awards. He and Director of Education Joel Roster expanded the organization's community partnerships and educational profile.
Worsley says the hardest part of the change will be leaving the community he cherishes and is grateful for. The "easiest" part is watching Silva step into his place. He says his successor will "build and strengthen" vital existing relationships and will add expertise by "hitting the stage" with "excellent musical productions."
At Cal Shakes, Worsley with continue his teaching artist responsibilities and develop the Classroom Teacher training programs.
"Theater has too long been seen as entertainment for a rich, mostly white, college-educated audience, and Cal Shakes is determined to change that," he says. Carrying Cal Shakes Artistic Director Jon Moscone's dedication to "making Shakespeare and the classics relevant and accessible to all people regardless of age or background" into the public school classroom is Worsley's new mantra.
With a solid background in educational outreach and main stage direction in the Bay Area, Silva's songbook will catch Worsley's cadence seamlessly. But the El Cerrito native's initial response upon receiving a call inquiring if he'd be interested in the post was "no."
"My first thought was that one of the talented people (Clive) had around him should take on the job," the former AD of Contra Costa Children's Theater said. A follow-up call from Roster -- with whom he'd worked before -- flipped his "no" to "yes." Silva said Worsley had made the theater a "home away from home," and fostering that atmosphere fit his philosophy. The current programming was pleasing, too, although the 50 percent sold houses he saw were cause for pause and, admittedly, concerning.
One week after accepting the job, he already had a plan for filling the small theater to capacity.
"It's musicals," he said. " But I have to start with musicals incorporating the band into the scenery because a budget for a (large scale) musical is usually twice what you'd spend on a play. They've worked hard to make Town Hall Theatre stable. 'Forever Plaid' and similar shows are what we'll do."
Silva said musicals aren't "better" than other plays, they are simply "what people want to see." He intends to balance them by continuing to bring "theater that makes me think" to the main stage. Farther down the road, he hopes to explore adding a new works initiative to the already packed schedule.
In addition to the firmly established youth programs, he said educational opportunities for adults could allow the theater to branch out into the community. No less ambitious than Worsley (it's exit/enter seamlessly, after all) Silva's hefty workload is helped by his having inherited the first three-quarters of the already-planned 2013-2014 season. Silva will direct "The Rainmaker," opening Sept. 14, and said he'll take a year's hiatus from appearing on the stage to "learn Lafayette" and "steer the ship correctly."