By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
“We thought we were going to Hollywood,” Murphy says. In fact, he didn’t even make it to California because of his parents’ separation.“He went to Fresno,” Murphy adds, referring to his father with a tone of subtle, mocking envy. Murphy found himself in Walla Walla, Washington, where his parents had first met, and where his his maternal grandfather, a scholar of Shakespeare and Chaucer, ran the English department at nearby Whitman College, and founded the Little Theatre of Walla Walla.
At Fairhaven College, Murphy studied “Communication Arts as a Catalyst for Social Change” — a major he invented, with affiliated minors in theater, journalism, English and social sciences at Western Washington University. After a couple of years at Fairhaven, he knew he wanted lifelong involvement with the theater.
Upon graduating, Murphy took the position of Special Assistant to the President for Governmental Relations, a fancy term for lobbyist for Washington’s state-university system.
Explaining his steady drift toward supporting and presenting theater rather than creating it, he says, there are a few things you never want to see being made: sausages, law, and I think I’d put theater in that category.”
In the mid-’80s, Murphy worked his way up the ranks of On the Boards, a contemporary performing center in Seattle, starting in PR and coordinating local programs, and eventually serving as artistic director from 1984 to 2001. In Seattle, he created the Northwest New Works series and Twelve Minutes Max — new works and works-in-progress festivals, which are the model for REDCAT’s Studio series and the NOW Festival.
He was wooed south to California by CalArts president Steven Levine, and took the job as REDCAT’s executive director a year and half before the venue opened in 2003, while it was still under construction. Among the contributions Murphy is proud of is persuading architect Frank Gehry to install REDCAT’s bar and open lobby, providing a pre- and postshow drinking and mingling space Murphy feels is essential for the solidification of an artistic community.
Among his few regrets are that the work launched at REDCAT hasn’t flown farther around the country and the world, though the institution is still young.
“I always thought that a presenter’s job was to work in service to artists rather than the other way around. The idea of hiring an artist or buying a spectacle or attraction is foreign to me. Over the few years, I think our audience, which changes event to event, feel that their relationship to the art is not as a consumer to a product, but that they’re contributing to and becoming part of the creative process in some way, and that it’s okay for them not to love something. Love it or hate it, just don’t say, ‘that was fine,’ and walk off.”
REDCAT’s NOW Festival closes this weekend with works by Rosanna Gamson, Anne LeBaron/Douglas Kearney and Kristina Wong. Disney Hall, southwest corner, downtown; Thurs.-Sat., July 31-August 2, 8:30 p.m. (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org.