Culver City couple focuses on local theater

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Photo by Shari Barrett. Culver City couple Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin and Jack Stehlin.

Culver City residents Jack Stehlin and Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin are getting ready to open Shakespeare’s “Othello,” a co-production between the Odyssey Theatre and The New American Theatre, on Friday, Oct. 24 at the Odyssey Theatre.

Wisnosky, Managing Director of New American Theatre, is producing “Othello” with Ron Sossi, Artistic Director of the Odyssey Theatre. Jack Stehlin stars as the villainous Iago. A.Martinez, whose ethnic background is part Mexican and part Native American lends a strong physical presence to the role of Othello, the Moor. The production is directed by John Perrin Flynn, Artistic Director of Rogue Machine Theatre.

Known for his role as DEA Captain Roy Till on Showtime’s “Weeds” series, Stehlin has appeared in and directed many productions at the Odyssey including his most recent critically acclaimed performance in “Creditors” and as director of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which was set in 1930s Athens, complete with gypsies!

Stehlin has played many famous Shakespearean characters including Hamlet, Brutus, the Scottish King, Richard III, and Bottom to name a few. This is the first time he plays Iago, along with Hamlet and Richard III has the most lines of any Shakespearean character. It is a role he has longed to play and “the right moment has arrived,” according to Jack, who is the Artistic Director of The New American Theatre.

Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times has said, “This revival has the makings of a rediscovery because as Iago, Jack has the ability to make villainous monologues sound like freshly minted thought.” Set in modern dress on a set, designed by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, which resembles interlocking pieces of metal representing the military base where the action takes place, Stehlin says his plan is “to present Iago just as the Bard wrote the character This allows the audience to decide on what really motivates the psychopath’s behavior.” Given his brilliant work as an actor, Stehlin’s performance is bound to sizzle as it ignites deep passions in Othello’s troubled heart and soul.

The New American Theatre was incorporated in Culver City and operates out of the Odyssey Theatre in West LA (or Culver City adjacent, as they prefer to call it) with more than 50 professional productions and 30 workshops to the company’s credit. The company has a core membership of professional actors from stage, film, and TV. Jack leads a Scene Study and Technique Studio on Saturdays, and Robert Cicchini (also a Culver City resident) and Jordan Lund co-teach Technique and Scene Study Monday evenings at the Veterans Memorial Complex in Culver City. For more information about The New American Theatre and its classes, please visit www.NewAmericanTheatre.com

So how did this power couple wind up at the Odyssey? According to Stehlin, “I met Ron Sossi (Artistic Director of the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble) when he saw one of our productions at the Hudson Guild in Hollywood. We changed our company’s name to Circus Theatricals (so named as a tribute to many circus performer family members) before incorporating as The New American Theatre. We were looking for a new home. Ron offered to partner with us at the Odyssey and we jumped at the chance. Ron is now co-producing ‘Othello’ with us, something the Odyssey has done frequently with our past critically acclaimed shows here.”

The couple met at the Hudson Guild in Hollywood, three years after Jeannine moved here from Chicago and two days after Jack moved from New York. That was the day after he agreed to be the Artistic Director of the Hudson Guild, of which Jeannine was a member and Managing Director. Jack explains, “It was love at first sight for me, but it took six months for her to agree to go out with me. Thank goodness she finally relented and we have been together ever since.”

While their involvement is centered on local theater, the Stehlins’ commitment to Culver City includes our schools, education, and all forms of the arts. The couple has three children enrolled in Culver City public schools, and Jeannine is the president of United Parents of Culver City, an advocacy group whose motto is, “when parents are involved, kids win.” UPCC brings together volunteer leaders from throughout the district to promote policies beneficial to CCUSD students.

Both Stehlins love living, raising their family, and working in Culver City, but note there isn’t a real option for more theater space in the city. Jeannine serves as Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Foundation, a nonprofit organization which promotes and supports historic preservation, public art and cultural programming in Culver City by seeking out and securing private and public sector funding. Jack has been very outspoken about converting the stage in the Veteran’s Auditorium into a functional black box theatre. Right now, the two largest professional theaters in Culver City, the Kirk Douglas Theatre and the Ivy Substation, are operated by the Center Theatre Group and the Actors’ Gang respectively.

“Othello” brings together three of L.A.’s most venerable artistic directors: Ron Sossi Artistic Director of the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble; Jack Stehlin, Artistic Director of The New American Theatre; with the production directed by Rogue Machine Artistic Director John Perrin Flynn. Make sure to not-to-miss this production.

Along with Stehlin and Martinez, the talented cast includes many critically acclaimed actors from several theater companies in Los Angeles including Anna DiGiovanni as Desdemona, Robb Derringer as Cassio, Susan Wilder as Emilia, Marc Jablon as Iago’s dupe Roderigo, Peter Van Norden as Desdemona’s father Brabantio, and Kate Parkin as Cassio’s lover Bianca. Ron Bottitta, James Liebman, Wendy Radford, Spencer Rowe, Bryson Jones Allman, Brendan Gill and Nick Marini round out the cast.

Performances of Shakespeare’s riveting psychological drama OTHELLO take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., Oct. 24-Dec. 14, except Sunday, Oct. 26, which will be at 5 p.m. with no 2 p.m. matinee. Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Nov. 5, Nov. 19 and Dec. 3; and on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Oct. 30, Nov. 13 and Dec. 11.

Tickets are $30 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and $34 on Saturdays and Sundays. There will be three pay-what-you-can (minimum $10) performances on Wednesday, Nov. 5; Friday, Nov. 14 and Friday, Nov. 28. The third Friday of every month is wine night at the Odyssey: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show.

The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com.