Kade's Name Graphic Kade Mendelowitz
Lighting Designer
PO Box 81522
Fairbanks, AK .....99708

An Interview with Kade Mendelowitz.

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Fairbanks Arts
March/April 1995

An Interview with Kade Mendelowitz by Rob Fatland

Kade Mendelowitz heads the University of Alaska Fairbanks Theater Department. But his theatrical exploits extend well beyond the UAF campus boundaries. This year alone he designed the production of SECRET GARDEN for FLOT, North Star Ballets production of NUTCRACKER and in addition he will light up the premier production of ALICE IN WONDERLAND with his talents. Kade has also provided the lighting for Ice Alaska's ice sculptures for the last two years.

Kade's primary theatrical focus as lighting designer dovetails with his position as Head of the UAF Theater Department. Due to budget cuts and hiring freezes, Kade has added Scenic Designer and Business Manager to his growing list of responsibilities.

As Scenic and Lighting Designer for the upcoming Theater UAF production of the Broadway musical RUNAWAYS, Kade sheds some light on his feelings about the show.

RF: With the production of RUNAWAYS about to start up, what's on your mind?

KM: I went back to New York City over the holidays. I was riding on a bus one day and was noticing the graffiti-covered walls ans thinking how perfect for the show all of it was...it was upsetting and inspiring. I bought a disposable camera and took a walk along the same bus route, taking photos of the "street-art."

RF: And this is the world of the RUNAWAYS?

KM: Yes. I first saw the show on Broadway back when I was about 14, many years ago, and I remember being extremely happy and relieved when I walked out of the theater that I had a family that I could go home to.

RF: The show seems to have made a pretty strong impression.

KM: Yes; I felt bad for the kids that were up there; I thought it was awful. Like most kids, I had run away for home for a few hours at a time. But its another matter to leave home for real.

RF: What was it about the original production that struck you?

KM: That these really were kids on stage; not what you would consider the "usual" Broadway actors. They were very natural, which is particularly surprising because musicals are not a natural thing.

RF: How would you talk about the show in a natural context?

KM: You hear all about the problems with schools; kids bringing guns in, for example. The causes are an involved issue, but the problem is everywhere, Fairbanks included. So in one sense the show is about general social awareness of our problems in terms of homeless kids. But RUNAWAYS is also very much about what teenage people have to contribute: their music, dance, art, or really their thoughts, what they care about. You can get tremendous insight by listening to teenagers.

RF: You don't think kids are listened to?

KM: Not enough. You see all the politicians, their primary focus is on the people in the work force who vote, so who gets ignored? The youth and the elderly. This country was built by those people who are now older, and who will be inherited by the youth, but most of the focus is on the middle age.

RF: Is the play what we think of as typical theater in that it presents a plot with a clean resolution and a moral?

KM: Definitely not. In fact, being quite the opposite as the point of the play; you come in and you see these youth's lives and you see everything they're going through and you see the fact that they're ignored, and when you leave, very little or nothing is changed.

RF: Let's talk about the Theater UAF production. What sort of things are you driving at, say in the music production and choreography?

KM: Eclectic style; this is definitely a show about the different backgrounds, and that needs to come through in the music and choreography.

RF: Do you have any ideas about the look of the show?

KM: Well, there are sort of two production extremes. The show can be set very realistically, or it can be placed in sort of an undefined limbo, or it can come down somewhere in between. There are advantages or disadvantages to both.

RF: As an instructor you mentioned that you require your design students to come up with a metaphor for their own design projects. What is the metaphor for the RUNAWAYS design?

KM: I want a lot of brick. Bricks are the essence. If I had a designers metaphor for the set, it would be how youth and family and people are the individual bricks that build our society.

RF: So if you have a lot of trashed and broken bricks...

KM: Yes.

RF: It seems that not a lot of teenagers in Fairbanks go to live theater productions. Any comments?

KM: Get off your butt; life is real. For one thing it is difficult to compete with the ease and convenience of TV. But TV is not reality; its a reduction of reality to a Smaller-Than-Life-Box. I think it is very much an escape. What I would like to emphasize is that, in contrast, live theater has a lot of energy that you just can't catch anywhere else. It's much larger than life. You're watching real flesh and blood people go through something that maybe you can identify with and its happening right in front of your eyes. That's the advantage of the performing arts; music, dance, or theater.

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