Fresh on the heels of her big move from Seattle, we catch up with Pittsburgh Public Theater’s new artistic director, Marya Sea Kaminski. In her previous role as associate artistic director of Seattle Repertory Theatre, Marya spearheaded a collaboration making “theater of, by and for the people” via Public Works Seattle. A native of Rochester, NY, Marya lives on Pittsburgh’s North Side in Deutschtown.
What upcoming events are you excited to attend?
Though I’m very new to Pittsburgh, I’ve been around long enough to know that this city loves a festival. I’m looking forward to Oktoberfest and also to seeing as much of the Festival of Firsts that I can. But right now I am probably most looking forward to opening the first show of my first season at Pittsburgh Public Theater – a tender and slightly raucous new adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” directed by the nationally-acclaimed director Desdemona Chiang.
Best part of your job?
Honestly, I have the best job in the world. All day long I’m surrounded by artists, innovators and folks who love this city and want to make something beautiful to share with their fellow Pittsburghers. Together, we work tirelessly to tell great stories in extraordinary ways. It’s an amazing way to spend the day.
What will long-time subscribers to The Public find that’s new and different under your artistic direction?
I think long-time lovers of The Public will feel right at home with the wide variety of stories and excellence of execution they’ve come to expect from Pittsburgh Public. However, I am inspired to tell those classic and beloved stories in new ways, and to invite a wide array of artists and perspectives into our building and our work. The coming seasons, I hope, will feel both familiar and invigorating.
What’s one thing in Pittsburgh that you are most looking forward to trying, doing or seeing?
I actually already did it. I’m a huge football fan and got to catch the Steelers home opener. Perhaps not the greatest game Pittsburgh’s ever played, but the energy of the crowd was contagious. And it was a helluva second quarter.
What significant differences and similarities have you experienced working in your field and living in Seattle, Europe and Pittsburgh?
That’s a big question. I’ll say, what has struck me most about Pittsburgh is its balance between friendliness and grit. This is a city full of real people, who love their families, know their neighbors and are proud of their work. It’s a great place to make art.
What is your long-term mission for Pittsburgh Public Theater?
I deeply believe that theater is both an artistic and a civic act, that a city needs a place to come to laugh and think and wonder together through stories and imagination. Just as we need a city hall, and a football stadium, I believe a city needs a public theater. That’s my long-term mission for PPT.
Besides the essentials (keys, wallet, phone), what do you always carry with you?
A pocket notebook. And usually a cup of coffee.
Who is the last person you texted (and what was it about)?
I was just texting with Andre Pluess, the composer and sound designer who is collaborating with us this season on “The Tempest.” We’re making plans to visit a rehearsal of the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus this Monday. They’ll be featured in the production as spirits of the island. They are going to sound heavenly.
Favorite place you’ve traveled to in the past year and why?
On the drive from Seattle, we took a detour through the southwest. We “glamped” in Utah and visited Arches National Park. That landscape leaves me in awe. We also spent a day on the Rio Grande with a friend in Taos. I don’t think I could ever live in the desert, but it is one of my favorite places to visit. Those great big skies give me room to think.
Who should be the unofficial Mayor of Pittsburgh?
Lou Castelli, my producing partner and the new managing director of Pittsburgh Public Theater. Not only is he charming, but he’s brilliant when it comes to connecting good people to great ideas. Plus, he already seems to know everyone. I’ve actually been teasing him about being the Mayor of Sixth & Penn.
What are you currently working on in terms of your own creative practice?
I am always working towards a greater sense of imagination, honesty and joy in my work.
Where will we find you this Saturday night?
At the theater, of course. Hope to see you there!
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