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City Theatre's new producer driven by ambition

| Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, 5:29 p.m.
City Theatre’s new artistic producer Reginald Douglas poses for a photograph in the theatre of the South Side playhouse on Thursday Aug. 27, 2015.
Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
City Theatre’s new artistic producer Reginald Douglas examines a model of a new set with Kristen Link (center), director of education and accessibility, Lex Gernon (left), scenic designer, 2015 Young Playwrights Festival, and Caitlin Dobronz (right), directing observer, 2015 Young Playwrights Festival at the South side playhouse on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.

City Theatre's new artistic producer Reginald L. Douglas hit the ground running with a resume of impressive credits and a lengthy to-do list of plans and programs.

Before joining City Theatre's staff in August, Douglas, 28 and known as Rege to his friends and colleagues, worked as an assistant director with well-known directors such as Ethan McSweeney, when he directed Euripides' “Ion” at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., and Emily Mann, when she directed the 2012 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

He assisted director Jo Bonney and playwright Lynn Nottage on the premiere staged reading of Nottage's play “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” at off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre. He has directed plays at the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn.

“I've been a theater kid my whole life,” says Douglas, who grew up in Brookville on Long Island. “I was always interested in directing, why the lights go on and why (the characters) walk out the door. I was lucky to have Broadway (nearby), spent time at the Drama Bookshop and stage doors getting autographs.”

He attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and, while there, did internships with the Shakespeare Theatre Company and Arena Stage.

“ ‘Ambitious' is the word most often used to describe me, also ‘passionate,' ” Douglas says.

Douglas' resume and experience impressed City Theatre artistic director Tracy Brigden when the theater went looking nationally for an artistic producer. After receiving 30 to 40 resumes, she interviewed 10 candidates.

Douglas rose to the top.

“Besides the fact that, on paper, his credits are impressive, ... he is so articulate, so self-possessed and so passionate, not just about theater. but also theater's place in the community,” Brigden says. “He immediately proved himself to be an ambassador to Pittsburgh for City Theater. ... He's really reaching into the community.”

As artistic producer, he will assist Brigden with directing and curating tasks and serve as a line producer, a job he defines as “getting a play from page to stage as efficiently as possible.”

After graduating from Georgetown in 2009, Douglas interned with Mann, the artistic director at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J.

“Reggie was just so fantastic. I loved him. I should have adopted him,” Mann says.

Prospective McCarter Theatre interns undergo a tough interview process, and Douglas distinguished himself, Mann says.

“He had done his homework. He knew my work and the theater's work. But it wasn't in a flattering way,” she says. “He had a very ambitious (vision) of what he wanted to contribute to the theater. I liked the style of his ambition. ... I thought, ‘This is a man who may end up running a flagship theater someday.' ”

During rehearsals for McCarter's revival of “Having Our Say,” Douglas was tireless in doing research about the 100-year period the play spans.

When questions arose about politics or the life of the characters, Douglas was on his laptop searching for answers.

“He would go home and stay up till 3 a.m. and come back with terrific historical research,” Mann says.

When Mann took her production of “Streetcar” to Broadway, she invited Douglas to assist her. “I wanted Reggie to have the Broadway experience. He made himself very useful,” Mann says.

Douglas' arrival at City Theatre has made it possible for the company to launch its Directing Observership Program, which will mentor local emerging directors through hands-on experiences.

He also has been working with Kristen Link, City Theatre's director of education and accessibility, on the 16th Young Playwrights Festival that will begin Sept. 29.

That program gives middle- and high-school students the chance to develop original one-act plays that are given professionally staged productions. He's also been busy making connections to create partnerships with area organizations such as the New Pittsburgh Collaborative and Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures to bring new people to the theater.

“Part of my job is connecting with the local arts community as well as national (organizations and artists) who are working toward the same goals,” he says. “We are looking for ways to bring new people through City Theatre's doors.”

Although a transplant from New York City, he's enjoying his new hometown: “I am falling for Pittsburgh. It's growing on me,” he says.

Douglas chose to live on the South Side so he could pursue a personal interest in his off hours. He was particularly interested in experiencing the Steelers season firsthand.

“You hear so much about the culture of football,” he says. “I'm curious to see: Is it true?”

Alice T. Carter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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