Person of interest: Rene Conrad of the New Hazlett Theater


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As executive director of the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side, Rene Conrad nurtures and promotes art in Pittsburgh.

"We like to call ourselves an incubator for the arts," said Ms. Conrad, adding that she and her staff work with performers to develop their ideas and bring them to life on stage.

Ms. Conrad, 48, has been in her job since January 2011.

"We're more than just a place where we come and unlock the door because you rented the theater. We hug you. We have an amazing technical staff and a technical director who has many years of industry experience -- Dave Bjornson."

Local band Good Night, States recently recorded in the New Hazlett's recording studio, then held its CD release party at the theater last month.

Small arts groups that need marketing assistance also get help from the New Hazlett Theater staff. So do solo performers.

"If they are an independent artist who can't raise money for themselves, we can serve as their fiscal sponsor so they can apply for funding to complete a particular project," Ms. Conrad said.

The last week in April was a good example of the theater's diverse programs and audiences.

On April 26, singer and activist Judy Collins talked about her career in music and her new memoir, "Sweet Judy Blue Eyes." On April 27, the performers were Cyborg Cabaret, a technology talent show created by Dan Wilcox and Heather Knight. It featured people and seven robots. On April 28, jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers, whose appearance was sponsored by Kente Arts Alliance, performed for an audience of 506 people.

Mac or PC? Ambidextrous. But as much as I want to be Mac cool, I think I'm really a PC girl at heart.

My perfect theatrical weekend is almost any weekend in Pittsburgh. There are so many things to see, sometimes you just can't fit them all in. I can attend the CityLIVE discussion series here at the New Hazlett on Thursday, see a play on Friday, a film with live musical accompaniment on Saturday and an amazing chamber opera on Sunday. All were unique experiences, and all were produced or presented by local arts organizations. Arts lovers are so fortunate to live in this town.

Good luck charm. I don't believe in luck -- it's more like karma. Life is short. Don't be mean.

Three things always in your refrigerator. Three? Try 30 -- I'm a ridiculous food nerd. Two different grades of maple syrup, multiple kinds of homemade chili paste, a freezer crammed with summer tomatoes.

Pet peeve about Pittsburgh. The ongoing schedule cuts and increasing price of public transportation.

Your favorite spot in the 'Burgh. I'm pretty partial to Dormont, where I live. I can get to all the cultural activities I love in about 15 minutes, and then I get to go home to my house and garden in Mayberry each night.

How you want to be remembered. As someone with a great work ethic.

Best piece of advice you've ever received on how to run a theater. You know that saying "All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten"? Well, everything I learned about working in the arts, I learned by taking something from my years in the advertising world and turning it on its head. So what started out as 'we're not saving lives here, we're selling towels' has become 'we're not saving lives here, but we are making them better.' I like this version more.

You have $20 and four hours to spend in Pittsburgh. What do you do? Head to Oakland, tour Phipps Conservatory, grab a coffee at the Schenley Park Cafe, then take a long hike in the park.

Can't live without gardening. I really love growing my own food.

What are you most passionate about? Helping artists realize their vision.

theater


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