We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathleen Culebro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathleen, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Every attempt to create art has been risky. That means there’s a very high probability that it will fail. That’s the very definition of “risk.” And yet when it succeeds something truly transcendent is created for the first time. We quickly forget that behind this groundbreaking work there were sleepless nights filled with fear of public humiliation and financial ruin. While some of the work Amphibian Stage does is more risky than other work, I still–twenty-one years into this job–panic and suffer from insomnia in the days before we open a show. This never stops me from wanting to push boundaries and find new ways of telling stories, however. The day Amphibian stops taking risks is the day I will likely choose to retire. Fortunately, my board of directors is 100% supportive of our artistic vision and very comfortable with our approach to making theatre.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m both an Artistic Director and a playwright, which is rare. Most Artistic Directors are stage directors and more comfortable with leadership than I was when I first started in my role at Amphibian Stage. Up to that point my work was done in solitude, for the most part. It took me a while to understand that my job as Artistic Director required that I do more than just produce work; I learned that I had to become comfortable talking to strangers about the company and why it’s worthy of their attention and/or financial support. Leadership in any type of organization requires that you motivate and mentor staff, inspire board members, and connect with other leaders across a wide spectrum of businesses. The more people you know and whose respect you earn the bigger your network of advisors, friends, and cheerleaders.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It’s no secret that I am partial to the Near Southside of Fort Worth, so we would spend quite a bit of time there eating, drinking and shopping. I might start one day at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and then follow it up with lunch at Paco’s Mexican Cuisine (for real Mexican food like I ate when I was growing up in Mexico City), dessert at Stir Crazy Baked Goods and shopping at 817 Vintage Hype, Panther City Vinyl and Etico. Ephemera is so much fun for creating your own little terrariums with your own personal flair. I might get a plant or two at Grow. Late afternoon is a perfect time to sit out on the patio at Kent & Co. Wine and sip delicious wines. No question that dinner would be at Shinjuku Station. They offer small plates to share, which makes it possible to try lots of yummy things without overeating. I’d probably start another day at the Kimbell Art Museum, but then head back over to South Main Street (where Amphibian is located). Coffee at Roots Coffeehouse and then lunch at Four Sisters for the tastiest Vietnamese food you’ll find anywhere. The shopping is great in the South Main Village. No big box stores or chains. Just small, independent stores like Winton & Waits, LTO Supply and Morgan Mercantile. You don’t want to rush through dinner at Wishbone and Flynt because it’s an experience to be savored. After dinner, we would step into the speakeasy, The Blue Room, tucked away at the back of the restaurant. You can’t skip the Amon Carter Museum, which is a treasure. Follow that with lunch at Cannon Chinese Kitchen and head to my very favorite bookstore, Leaves Book and Tea. It’s next to Record Town Records and The Table, so we couldn’t pass those by. After a brief argument with my friend about who serves the best pizza, I’d prove my point by taking them to Black Cat Pizza. They’d probably have to reward me with a drink at Southside Cellars! Depending on the day of the week there’s always some great entertainment. Theatre at (of course) Amphibian Stage or Stage West and live music at MASS or Tulips.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Without the incredible generosity of the late Dr. Forest Newlin, Amphibian wouldn’t exist today. As Chair of the Theatre Department at Texas Christian University he allowed Amphibian to form on his stages. He gave us full access to the theatres, along with all of the state-of-the-art equipment they housed. How many brand new theatre companies have free use of beautiful spaces in which to introduce themselves to audiences? We could really show off what we had learned at TCU because we had everything we needed. I’m guessing we wouldn’t have made it past the first year without the generosity and trust of this amazing mentor.
Evan Michael Woods