New year, new direction at Queens Theatre

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Five super hero characters from Queens Theatre’s original production “CHIX 6” belt out a number during a performance.
Photos courtesy of Carol Rosegg
Five super hero characters from Queens Theatre’s original production “CHIX 6” belt out a number during a performance.

Visionary Ray Cullom, the recently-instated executive director of Queens Theatre, is preparing his new domain for a metamorphosis. Astounded by the 21-year-old theatre’s immense potential, Cullom plans to turn what previously acted solely as a performance space into a full-fledged, talent-nurturing enterprise.

“[Queens Theatre] is a unique showplace unlike anything I’ve worked in before,” said Cullom. “It’s Queens’ best-kept secret.”

Well-versed in the art of conducting both for-profit and non-profit theatres, Cullom most recently performed as the managing director at the New Haven Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. Sporting a background in archaeology and history, Cullom previously regarded theatre as merely a hobby rather than a profession. Over time, his passions traded places, and theatre took center stage.

Over Cullom’s first eight months as executive director of Queens Theatre, the institution has undergone a moniker alteration. Previously regarded as the Queens Theatre in the Park, Cullom hopes the simplified name promotes recognition among the public, as well as informs people of the company’s year-round productions.

“My goal is to have the theatre buzzing with life 365 days a year,” said Cullom.

Cullom has also devised plans on how to cultivate productions from within the venue, a previously foreign concept at Queens Theatre.

Cullom’s premier event, “CHIX 6,” centers on a young artist whose drawings of super heroes come to life and assist her along her journey to self-empowerment. “CHIX 6” ran for five weeks, accumulating the highest attendance of any show in the theatre’s history. In 2012, the production plans to move to a larger venue, on Broadway.

During the production stage of “CHIX 6,” Cullom feared the show’s indie-rock filled soundtrack and ground-breaking ideals might alienate the audience. A more traditional Gershwin production trailed “CHIX 6.”

But according to Cullom, the audience asked for more.

“Our audience wants to be challenged,” said Cullom. “They want to come along for a ride with us.”

In the wake of “CHIX 6’s” success, Cullom claims the theatre is now undergoing a period of testing, rethinking previous assumptions about its audience.

According to Cullom, Queens Theatre’s upcoming season promises to hold an innovative blend of original shows, collaborative works and previously-produced pieces.

“Ella,” debuting in February, illustrates the life of “The First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald. “The Jack Cole Project,” a tribute to one of the most influential choreographers and a Queens Theatre original production, opens in May.