Managing Director for Rosebud Theatre, Mark Lewandowski has been an integral part of the Rosebud community for close to 30 years. In addition to his “day job”, he acts as an instructor and production advisor for student final projects. He also keeps busy with acting, directing, and music ensembles. Selected directing credits include 'Billy Bishop Goes to War', 'The Proposal', 'Christmas on the Air', 'Treasure Island' (Rosebud Theatre); 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown', 'The Triumph of Love', 'Frank Dickens' Christmas Carol' (Rosebud School of the Arts); 'The Last Five Years' (Earthen Vessel Creations); 'You Are Here' (Schramm-a-lam Productions); Ten Times Two (Sun Hat Productions); 'Where the Magic Ends' (Soap Box Theatre) and 'Rilla of the Island' (Story Girl Productions). A frequent collaborator with Fire Exit Theatre, company directing credits include ‘Furniture of Heaven’ ‘Craving’ ,'To Forgive, Divine', ‘Sarah and the Dinosaur’, ‘Here Breaks the Heart’, and ‘Halo’.
Where did you grow up?
When did you come to Rosebud?
I came in 1989 as a student. I was going to stay for two years and then start my own touring company. They decided to start a touring program when I was in my second year, so I focused on apprenticing for that. (At the time, the goal for graduation was to create a job for yourself.) When I graduated, I ran the touring program for a few years, and when the previous theatre manager retired, I moved into that position and changed the focus to be production manager. I haven’t left since.
What made you stay?
Too lazy to leave, maybe?
Seriously, I can not imagine working anywhere else. Rosebud has shaped me, both as a person and as an artist. I value the sense of community and the integration of faith and art. I love the interaction with the students. While it’s not ideal or even idyllic, I just don’t know how leaving would improve my life.
There’s a graphic I saw a while ago. It’s a four-circle Venn diagram which shows an intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you are good at, and what you can be paid for. The centre of which is Purpose. I feel like, living and working in Rosebud, I’m pretty close to that centre.
What does your current position at Rosebud Theatre entail?
My position now is Managing Director, but I wear a number of different hats. The M.D. job overlaps with production manager duties, so most of my job is about setting the broad parameters of budget and schedules, writing contracts, and ensuring everyone has the resources they need to do their job.
I also do some teaching and advising of students. And there’s always the mentoring as they work alongside us and develop as artists.
This year, I’m also Head of Lighting, which means that I oversee the lighting department and the implementation of the lighting designs for each show.
Favourite part of your job?
So many things. I think the thing I’d miss the most if I left would be not having interaction with students and mentoring these young artists.
Although it’s not part of my official job, I do feel most alive when I’m directing a show. I do get some opportunities through my work in Rosebud, but mostly it’s because I live in the community and there are lots of opportunities with student final projects and other things.
What’s something that drives you as an artist?
I love being a theatre artist because it’s so collaborative. I do some work as a single artist (playing music mostly), but I prefer to work with others. I love working with other people who inspire each other, both with ideas and with a passion for the work, as well as a dedication to excellence. When all this comes together to create interesting and inspiring stories that impact an audience, it’s amazing.
Do you have a passion for a particular role in the theatre?
Directing. There was a period of a couple years that I had too much on my plate at work that I turned down directing opportunities. I got pretty cranky at that point.
Has there been a defining moment, or a particular experience in Rosebud that has stuck with you over the years?
So many. But something recently happened that I think reinforced what directing means to me:
This past fall I was directing the student show, Frank Dickens’ Christmas Carol. For a two-week period during those rehearsals, I had an unusually high work load including some stressful meetings and some personal crises all happening at once. In a five-day period, I had only 20 hours of sleep. I walked into rehearsal with the students and was frank with them. I asked for grace if I was short with them as I was exhausted and could barely focus. If I were to close my eyes, I would be immediately asleep. However, within ten minutes of rehearsing, I had complete focus, feeling fully energetic, and excited about what was happening. And after rehearsing for 8 hours, I was still able to do more work and still feel fresh. This happened two days in a row!
Directing certainly fills my artistic well. It’s my bliss.
What’s something co-workers and Rosebuddies might not know about you?
Well, being here for over 25 years means there’s very little that someone here doesn’t know.
I suspect that only the old-timers know that before I came to Rosebud, I had two wives. I leave it at that. It sounds so much more interesting that way. (OK, it had to do with working at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village outside of Edmonton as a first-person interpreter for two summers. But that’s all I’m saying.)
Any upcoming projects?
I’m currently working with Fire Exit Theatre directing a show called How the World Began. It opens in February.
I also will be directing our theatre-for-young-audience show, Snow White. That starts just after How The World Began opens.
What’s challenging you about ‘How the World Began’?
At first, the subject matter seemed tricky, [“an ethical firestorm about evolution vs. creation”] but I have a great cast and we’re finding our way through much more quickly than I expected. So the challenge is now about upping everyone’s game and digging deeper into the show while keeping the clarity of the story.
Any New Year’s Resolutions?
Finding a better work/family/life balance. Living in Rosebud means that I’m not far from my work, and the nature of my job means I’m often on call. Mentoring students also often happens outside of work hours. Plus being in a small community means that there are only so many people to do things, so I’m on several boards as well as on the fire department. So, it’s tricky trying to balance all of these things.