The Coast News Group
New Village Arts Theatrer on State Street, started years ago after Kristianne Kurner and her former husband Francis Gercke realized the need for a theater in Carlsbad. Photo by Ben Swanson
The Carlsbad city council approved the process of negotiating a long-term lease with New Village Arts during a meeting on Feb. 11. File photo
Arts Arts Carlsbad Featured News

New Village Arts Theatre offers up more than just plays

CARLSBAD — New Village Arts Theatre has grown a lot since it’s humble beginnings in a converted chicken coop in Magee Park.

The theatre, now located in a former lumberyard in the heart of Carlsbad Village, is in its 14th season and has expanded its offerings.

Along with putting on six different productions a season, the company has an arts foundry, a high school program and is in the middle of developing a corporate skills development program.

The grant-funded high school program, the Shakespeare Network, helps students develop confidence, public speaking abilities, teamwork and creative problem solving through the production of a Shakespeare play, Executive Artistic Director Kristianne Kurner said.

Members of the theatre help high school students learn about Shakespeare and the language during the first semester, and produce a play during the second.

The Army Navy Academy is in the middle of producing “Henry V” and Sage Creek High School is doing “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”

“(Army Navy students) just did a five minute snippet from “Henry V” as part of their holiday show and half of the class had never set foot on stage before, and they stood up in front of all their peers and did this beautiful rendition of Shakespeare,” Kurner said.

One former El Camino High School student, Anton Maroun, had never been on stage before.  After his first performance in “Romeo and Juliet,” which was produced by New Village Arts, the San Diego Shakespeare Society gave him a nod as best actor.

His work with New Village Arts sparked his passion for acting and he just finished a play with the La Jolla Playhouse. He’ll also be in “Lord of the Flies” at the New Village Arts.

The theatre is a non-profit, with half its revenue coming from ticket sales and the other half from donors and endowments.

The city of Carlsbad rents the building to the company for $1 a year, because Kurner said, officials realized the value of having a theatre company.

“They recognize the importance of a strong cultural arts presence for a healthy community and they’re also just really wonderful people,” Kurner said. “In all the seven years we’ve been directly associated with the city, it’s been a great experience.”

Currently, “The Nutcracker” is playing and in February, the theatre will host the west coast premiere of “Stage Kiss,” which Kurner is particularly excited about.

Alongside the 99-seat theatre is the artist foundry, which was founded five years ago and serves as both an art gallery and a studio for artists throughout the region.

“Most people have their studios here so they don’t have to have them at home. Most of our artists find that their spouses or significant others are really happy to have them come here,” Kurner said.

“This is saving my marriage,” Abstract Artist Walt Hambly joked.

A small jury decides on which artists best match the vision of the foundry and the artists can work at the foundry 24 hours a day.

The mission of the theatre is to connect the audience through human experience, Managing Director Chelsea Kaufmann said.

She said working with the theatre is extremely gratifying.

“The thing that excites me the most is it takes so many different types of artists to tell a story,” Kaufmann said.

Every spring around late March and early April the theatre holds auditions for actors.

Also, as a means to bring plays to a wider range of people, the theatre offers “pay what you can” preview shows, which serve as a type of rehearsal for the actors before the play opens.

The dates and times of each shows, including preview shows, are listed on the theatre’s website at