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Camelot artistic director to retire

Livia Genise will retire as artistic director of Camelot Theatre at the end of 2016. Genise has held the job since 2002, helping to triple the theater’s attendance and overseeing its move from an old feed store down the street to the new, state-of-the-art, multimillion-dollar James M. Collier Theatre in Talent.

“I’ve worked seven days a week since 1996,” she said.

“I’m healthy as a horse. But I’m tired. I have no life other than this.”

The theater presents 12 productions a year, four musicals, three plays, four musical spotlights and a conservatory production featuring Camelot Conservatory students. Attendance last year was about 26,000.

Camelot Executive Director Dann Hauser, who took on some of Genise’s duties when he was hired two years ago, said the board hasn’t yet decided what the search for a new artistic leader might look like.

“That’s going to be tough,” Hauser said. “She does so many things, way beyond the job description. And as the theater has grown, the complexity has mushroomed.”

Genise earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Southern Oregon University in 1969 and became a member of Actors Equity, the actor’s union. She’s acted on Broadway (“Grease”), television (“Three’s Company,” “Hill St. Blues,” “Days of Our Lives”), and in theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In the 1990s she started and ran the educational conservatory program at Willows Theatre in the Bay Area. In 2000 she became education director of the Marin Theatre Company.

She became artistic director of then Actors Theatre in Talent in 2002 and immediately began assembling a company of actors and technicians and adding Broadway musicals to the theater’s lineup. She’s directed numerous plays and musicals and sung and acted in roles from Maria Callas (“Master Class”) to the Witch in “Into the Woods.”

Musicals are more expensive and labor-intensive to produce than plays, but they played a key role in Genise’s audience-building efforts.

“They bring in the crowds,” she said.

Actor and director Paul Jones, who worked with Genise on many shows, said that without Genise the theater in Talent wouldn’t exist.

“You have to hand it to her,” Jones said.

Genise belongs to chambers of commerce in Medford, Ashland, Talent and Phoenix and attends frequent morning greeters meetings. Until recently she handled all the theater’s marketing.

Genise has a reputation of being a strong director who knows what she wants. She’s sometimes gone into what she called troubled productions and redirected late in the rehearsal process.

“A lot of people think they can direct, but they’re not closers,” she said. “It’s important to have a safe place for the artists, a safe place to perform.”

Kimberley Boesche, president of Camelot’s board, said the rest of the 2016 season would be dedicated to Genise. A Sept. 9 performance of the musical “Chess” will be a celebration of Genise and her tenure.

“We just hope she comes back and acts and directs for us,” Hauser said.

Genise said she plans to act in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

“I want to freelance,” she said. “Just act and direct.”

She said she’s particularly proud of the team she’s worked with and many of the nearly 150 productions the company has produced over the last 14 years.

“I guess what I am most proud of is that Camelot has made a difference in people's lives,” she said, “both in its artists' and its audiences'."

Bill Varble writes about arts and entertainment for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at varble.bill@gmail.com.

Livia Genise