Junction City Opera House greets new director

music

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — With more than three decades of experience in the arts, Randal West is looking forward to his next challenge — operating the C.L. Hoover Opera House. As the interim executive director of the facility, the upcoming weeks are going to be busy for West as he juggles meetings with organizations and city officials.

“I want to know how people feel about the building,” he said. “There’s a lot of people excited about what can happen here.”

The search for the next leader of the Opera House began after Mary Louise Stahl announced her retirement effective Dec. 31, 2013. Through his background in marketing and administration, he’s looking forward to picking up the mantle of a facility which plays a major role in the city’s cultural landscape, The Junction City Daily Union reported (http://bit.ly/1hKcMyf ).

“It’s going to be a big challenge and it’s going to take a lot of people getting on board to make this happen,” he said. “I don’t underestimate the challenge that’s here. There’s a lot of coordinating to do for making sure everyone’s voices are heard.”

West’s first day at the Opera House was Feb. 17.

“It’s been a whole week of meeting people who have a interest in the Opera House,” West said about crafting a vision. “I don’t believe that an executive director should come in and dictate a vision to a building or a company.”

Currently, he’s examining where the Opera House does well and improving other functions.

“I’m in the process of looking at what’s not being done in Junction City and what we can do,” he said. “Is there something that we can add to the Opera House that would be an addition culturally, that’s not being done by someone else?”

After the vacant position was offered, West jumped on the opportunity and began two weeks later. Most recently, he served as the Executive/Artistic Director of Way Off Broad, Iowa’s only professional musical theatre company.

“My energy is full speed ahead to get everything going here,” he said.

Although West recently began his duties at the Opera House, he is not officially settled in. West recently made a trip to Iowa to pack up more stuff.

“It’s a been a whirlwind,” he said about moving to the Flint Hills.

West’s wife is Margaret and together, they have three sons, Gareth, William, and Joshua. Margaret also sings professionally.

“I dragged her into musical theatre screaming and yelling,” he said. “She’s going to come here and teach voice.”

Gareth is attending Junction City High School. William wants to be a creative director for video games.

Although many residents are excited about his background and his move to the Opera House, his current living situation has stirred controversy. West currently resides in Manhattan and not in Junction City or Geary County.

West said he searched in Junction City, but a home in Manhattan was the quickest option to meet the needs of his family.

He said the local market was also his first search. He indicated his son’s enrollment at JCHS is proof of his commitment to the community and plans to switch to Junction City in the future.

“You’re going to see me in Junction City all the time,” West said about his new adventure. “It’s a Junction City icon and I’m going to be a Junction City guy running it.”

After earning a bachelor’s and master’s in musical theatre from the University of Redlands, West became an adjunct professor, admissions counselor and took on other duties as well.

After a stint in the education field, West took another path in the arts.

“I have a great respect for education,” West said. “But I thought that if I could find something creative and administrative, that could be something I wanted to do.”

That decision led to working for the city of Phoenix, where he served as Theatre Co-coordinator. During his time in Arizona, West directed and choreographed more than 30 musical productions. West’s work in Phoenix resulted in several prestigious awards.

A production of the musical “Working” guest-directed by West became the first community college production to win the American College Theater Festival and went on to be presented at the Kennedy Center.

West was also picked five times as Outstanding Director of Musical Theater for the state of Arizona by the Arizona Press Media.

His 5-year chapter in Arizona came to an end with a collaboration with Stephen Sondheim and George Furth on their musical “Merrily We Roll Along.”

Sondheim has received more Academy Awards and Tony Awards than any other composer. Some of his work included “West Side Story,” ”Gypsy” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

Through a Sondheim recommendation, West moved to the San Francisco area and continued to direct, choreograph and conduct for theatres in Northern California.

He earned multiple awards regionally for directing, choreography and musical production.

While working in Los Angeles in the field of television, West received 13 Telly Awards, seven Vision Awards, eight Aegis awards, and two Videographer Awards.

West and his family wanted a slower change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles area. Later, West became the vice president and creative director of Hawthorne Direct, Inc., a full-service, brand response advertising agency based out of Fairfield, Iowa.

“It was a really great place to raise our kids,” West said about living in Iowa.

After success in the advertising business, West returned to musical theatre.

In 2007, he became the first Executive and Artistic Director for the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center, home of the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts. In that role, he was responsible for the 524-seat theatre.

Before the building opened its doors, West led fundraising efforts for the construction and received permission to use Sondheim’s name for a theatre training program. The facility was the first to do so.

“We were the first sanctioned Sondheim theatre in the world,” he said.

Theaters in London and New York followed suit.

His last stop before Junction City was Way Off Broadway.

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Information from: The (Junction City, Kan.) Daily Union, http://www.dailyu.com

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