Spotlight on Norma Ozur, Greenbelt Arts CenterBy Laura & Mike Clark • Feb 27th, 2008 • Category: Interviews
Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBizRadio and today I am talking with Norma Ozur, the President of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Thank you for talking with me today, Norma.
Norma: I’m delighted. I want everybody to know about the Greenbelt Arts Center. It’s a wonderful organization that is doing a lot.
Mike: I look on the website and you’ve got tons of stuff going on. That confused me a little bit because it seems like there is the theater part and then the art part.
Norma: It is performing arts as well as visual arts. We do theater. We occasionally have a dance troop come in. They are a visiting group. We are not a dance theater. We have music going on and concerts that perform in our venue. As far as the visual arts, we have a large lobby and we hang various art works. Right now we have the Greenbelt Photography Club Exhibit. That’s why we are an arts center. Visual and performance. Mostly we do theater.
Mike: Are you affliliated with the City of Greenbelt?
Norma: Yes, sort of. They help to fund some of our activities. We are located right in the heart of the city, right next to what used to be the Greenbelt Post Office. It has since moved so we can’t advertise that we are right next to the post office, but we are right below the co-op which is the main supermarket in the city. We do get a lot of support from the city, financially as well as people coming to see our shows and helping out with things like the box office and backstage work. Some even do some performing.
Mike: Are you a registered non-profit?
Norma: Absolutely yes. Definitely a non-profit and registered. We take advantage of that because nobody of our arts people gets paid. We do have one part-time general manager who takes care of the office work. Nobody else gets any money from performing or helping in any way.
Mike: So what type of theater productions have you done this season already?
Norma: We do Shakespeare. We do classic theater. We have a children’s theater show that is being performed through next weekend. It is through the Grenbelt Recreation Center. We work closely with them. We are preparing to do several shows. Born Yesterday is our next big production. Following that in March we will do a one night benefit of the Vagina Monologues. That will be a benefit performance to help abused women.
Following that the last show of the present season, meaning the 2007-2008 season, is the Octette Bridge Club. It is a very warm family melodrama comedy. We do a great many things. We started our season with Oliver! this year. We did an African American show, Saving Our Saints. We have done many different kinds of theater and we will continue to do that.
We are in the process of selecting our shows for next season. That can be a broad spectrum of musicals. We will probably be doing the Rocky Horror Show. There are several different kinds of shows that are up for the play selection committee to decide. Just know it will be an exciting season coming up.
Mike: The Greenbelt Arts Center has just joined WATCH. Congratulations on that.
Norma: That’s correct. We decided it would be a way of judging ourselves and it’s wonderful to have connections with other community theater groups in the whole Washington area because there are groups in Virginia, Maryland, and the district that do community theater. As far as doing community theater it is a wonderful way for people who cannot afford the Kennedy Center or the National or The Warner Theatre or whatever to see some really fine work.
Our county has quite a number of groups. Prince George’s County has several really good groups of which we consider ourselves one of the very best. It is a great way, for example, for children to get started, with appropriate material naturally, getting to know what live theater is. That is the whole point of it. Live theater is just such a different kind of medium from television or film. We try to bring live theater to the community and we do get a lot of people coming from outside the community a well.
Mike: Do you have any classes for kids over the summer?
Norma: We do not do that. In the past we have, but our people get so tied up with things they are already involved in that we found that we just cannot do that. There are many classes offered all over the area. We don’t want to have to put ourselves out for something that we are not able to do well.
Mike: So tell me a little about the facility. We’ve seen a few shows over at the Arts Center. All the shows that we’ve seen have been black box theater in the round.
Norma: It’s sortof 3/4 in the round. It’s a thrust kind of stage. We have a back wall. Most of our performances are done in that 3/4 in the round. There are seats stage left, stage right, and in the center. However, we have the capability of turning our theater into a proscenium arch venue. We have done that for several shows. That is up to the director. We simply move the risers on which our seats are now. They are movable seats, they are not tacked down to the floor. We put the risers under our sound booth and set up rows of seats facing the proscenium arch stage. The facility itself is excellent because we have a rehearsal room, a green room for a dressing room. We have a lobby space which we talked about before being able to show all kinds of artwork. We are able to build scenery and store it. We have a lot of props in what we call “The Back 40″ of the facility.
Mike: Is there a certain show that you would just love to see the Greenbelt Arts Center do?
Norma: Whatever comes up. The way we handle it is we advertise for directors and additionally we ask people to tell us if they would like to see a particular show. We then search for a director for a show that we think will be able to be done. For example, if we wanted to do Amadeus, we would ask someone if they were interested in doing it or somebody might submit that as a play that he or she would like to direct. After our play selection committee has chosen the particular shows, we just do it.
I have submitted a play that I would love to direct. I want to do Grand Hotel. Being the president of the organization carries absolutely no weight for the play selection committee. They have to make the decisions about what they think would go, what our audience has been like in the past and would like to see done at our theater.
It also depends on the sets, the costumes, the props. Will it put us over budget? We are not for profit, but we also do not like to lose money on productions. Sometimes productions do cost enormous amounts of money. If you stage a musical, for example, you’ve got so much going out for royalties for not only the script, but the music itself you have to borrow. Costumes and musicians. It takes an enormous amount to stage a musical, much more than a straight play. The play selection committee has a lot of weight as far as selecting what our season will be like.
Mike: How did you get involved with the Greenbelt Arts Center?
Norma: I came to an audition once. I’ve been with them for twenty odd years. I got a part and kept on since it was fairly close to where I live. I am not a resident of Greenbelt. I found it convenient and a lot of fun. One of the wonderful things about our group is it is not a closed group. Anybody may audition. No one is precast for shows. The directors know this. We all get along really really well. We tend not to have a lot of divas and people who think they are of professional quality, although they perform brilliantly in most cases. We really are a congenial group. We welcome everybody. We could use more backstage help as far as carpentry and set painting and props and costumes. That’s always a problem getting enough people. You never have to worry about actors, but you do have to worry about the backstage.
Mike: Is there anything else we should chat about before we wrap up?
Norma: Just that we would love to have audiences come see the great work that we do. For example, as I mentioned earlier, Born Yesterday is a delightful comedy and people will want to see that. It goes back to the 40′s and it is charming and a lot of fun. Following that will be the Octette Bridge Club. Also, unfortunately we cannot ask people now who may be listening to make reservations for the Vagina Monologues because it has been sold out. We are delighted to be able to help out in this way. We have a long waiting list now for people who would like to see the show and had heard about it and made reservations.
We do ask that people make reservations because it helps us in a little way to plan our seating and so on. Although there is non reserved seating, we do give preferred seating to people with disabilities. Hard of hearing or walking, or sitting or what have you. For that reason we do ask when people make reservations that they let us know of a particular handicap and we do try to accommodate them. We have no steps and the theater is easy to get into and out of.
Mike: What is your web address?
Norma: It is email@example.com, www.greenbeltartscenter.org.
Mike: Ok. I think that was very informative. Thank you very much for talking with me today.
Norma: Thank you so much. I love talking about the organization and I do hope people will come out and see the great work that we do.
Norma: Ok, thanks so much.
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Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.