Published in The Olympian, December 2010

In this July 8, 2008 file photo, the cast of Capital Playhouse’s “Peter Pan” fills the stage for pre-performance instructions for the dress rehearsal.


DECEMBER 07, 2010 11:33 AM


Capital Playhouse, Olympia’s endangered musical theater, has pulled itself out of its immediate financial crisis and has named new management as it reorganizes.

Board member and spokesman Ned Hayes said Monday that a fundraiser Sunday along with a plea to donors over the past few weeks have raised the $20,000 needed to pay back rent and other debts the theater owed.

“Every day we see our contributions get us on the road to solvency. We are able to keep our doors open and serve our audience,” Hayes said.

At Sunday night’s special fundraising performance of “Little Women,” board members announced that Joe VanSyckle has been appointed to the newly created position of managing director, and current musical director Troy Arnold Fisher is serving as interim artistic director.

Hayes said the board reached an agreement with Jeff Kingsbury, Capital Playhouse’s founder and longtime artistic director, to extend his leave until spring. Kingsbury and the board will address his future with the theater at that time. During his leave, Kingsbury is being paid a stipend that reflects his personal investment in the theater, Hayes said.

One staff position is being eliminated at the end of the year, but Hayes declined to identify it. The board also appointed current staffer Heidi Fredericks as artistic director for Students on Stage, one of the Playhouse’s youth programs. That position was previously covered by four or five people, Hayes said.

The popular summer youth program Kids at Play will continue this summer with 250 kids already signed up for it, Hayes said.

VanSyckle recently relocated to Olympia after two decades away that included high-profile roles in recruitment, marketing and business management at Microsoft, and MSN. He’s not being paid in his role as managing director.

“I’m getting paid in other ways,” he said.

VanSyckle’s history with Capital Playhouse began as a 13-year-old in the Kids at Play program. “I was a lonely, insecure, chubby little kid who didn’t have a lot going for me at the time,” he said.

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What he found, VanSyckle said, was a community that embraced him. “I found my voice. I found self-confidence.”

Though VanSyckle put his acting interest on the back burner during his business career, he has a role in the Playhouse’s current production of “Little Women.”

As VanSyckle sees it, the mission of the Playhouse’s youth programs is not to turn out the next Broadway star but instead to create responsible, caring citizens. If they happen to become stars, that’s OK too, he said.

VanSyckle said he plans to put the theater company’s books in order and then find grants and foundations to supplement funding.

“We will get grants, I’m pretty certain of that,” said VanSyckle, adding that there will be more marketing of the Playhouse’s programming to the community and the region.

Fisher, who has been the musical director since 1988, said he will work to maintain the high artistic integrity of the theater during his tenure. Though he has occasionally appeared on stage during his years at the Playhouse, audiences won’t suddenly be seeing more of him.

“My comfort zone is more in the artistic trenches than in the spotlight,” he said.

Kingsbury had occasionally starred in the Playhouse’s “Season in a Box” productions.

Fisher said he hopes to build bridges between members of the local theater community who were alienated by Kingsbury over the years. “He was a politically high profile person in town,” Fisher said.

Kingsbury has been a polarizing figure in Olympia the last several years. In April, he revealed to The Olympian that he was the confidential informant who twice bought marijuana from then-councilman and former colleague Joe Hyer as part of a sting operation.

Kingsbury also was unpopular with a sizable portion of the community for voting to raise height limits on the downtown isthmus to allow a condominium complex as tall as 90 feet there. Kingbury’s stance was a factor in him being voted out of office last year; the council’s new members voted to return height limits on the isthmus to 35 feet on an interim basis.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541