Valerie Rachelle is now in her second year as artistic director of the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Her husband, Rick Robinson, the managing director of OCT, is also a playwright and film director. Rachelle, who received her MA in directing from the University of California at Irvine, also enjoys a successful freelance career as a director and choreographer. Rachelle and Robinson bought OCT in 2014. One afternoon, I met Rachelle in the Cabaret Theatre.
EH: How did you get involved in theater?
VR: I started dancing when I was 3, and singing soon after that. My very first professional production was when I was 7. I was in “Annie” with a theater company at the Hult Center in Eugene. I was with the Eugene Ballet. I was a ballerina and a singer. My parents were professional magicians.
VR: That’s what they did for a living, they jumped out of boxes. I toured the world with them. We lived in Japan for a while, and worked at a resort on Okinawa Island. I grew up on the road and on the stage from a very young age.
EH: You are a director, actor and choreographer?
VR: I really don’t act that much anymore, I only act every once in a while. I do mostly directing and choreographing. I have an agent in New York, and I travel the country, and direct where I’m hired. This summer will be my eighth season with the Utah Opera. They are a repertory company that does opera and musicals. I met Jim Giancarlo in 2006 and was hired to direct “Winter Wonderettes” in 2012.
EH: This is a truly inviting place.
VR: It’s a really unique amazing space. Thank goodness that Craig Hudson bought the building and renovated it, and that Jim Giancarlo and he made this magical place. We’re making many, not only technical, but front-of the-house upgrades. We’re slowly putting all of this effort into continuing to make the experience heightened and better production-wise. Ticket sales are definitely up from previous years. We’re taking ticket sales and putting it right back into the business.
EH: How do you choose your season?
VR: We have a season selection committee. We compile a list of things. We put together about 15 choices, then we put them in the program for our audiences to vote for five, then we tally up the votes. We want to give the audience what they want to see, and we want to start doing some different things like “Cabaret” and “Chicago.”
EH: What are your demographics?
VR: About 25 percent of our audience is made up of tourists. Most of our audience members are fifty-five or older, mostly women, and mostly local.
EH: What’s so special about the art of theater?
VR: To me it’s actually about storytelling, not to just entertain, but to educate and edify. I feel that through literature and art, we actually learn more about the human condition. I feel that art, music, theater, the performing arts, are actually what help change people’s hearts and minds about each other and human existence. I feel that even the silliest of storytelling, live in flesh and blood, makes a different impact than technology. There’s nothing you can do to replace the interaction that you get: watching someone one-on-one live.