The Torrance Cultural Arts Foundation is doing its best to make Torrance and the South Bay a destination for up-and-coming artists, unique performers, and crowd favorites. But how do they do it?
We were able to catch up with Executive Director Christian Wolf to find out more behind the scenes info about how TOCA finds performers, how the first-ever South Bay Festival of the Arts went, and what the future holds for TOCA.
Q: Each season is so unique. What were some of your favorite performances from the 2016/17 season?
Chris: It’s hard to choose, all the acts were phenomenal and I personally enjoyed all of them! Mandy Harvey, a jazz vocalist and musician, gave a great show, then she went on to audition for AGT and got the Golden Buzzer. That was really cool.
We had a reading of a new play, Face to the Sun, which was really enjoyable, and the add on of Mark Twain: Tonight was an unanticipated delight. Always a good show.
The South Bay is a rich, diverse community and I always try to bring in acts that have something for everyone.
Q: The new 2017/18 Season Brochure just came out. What acts are you most looking forward to for the next season?
Chris: I’m looking forward to Vaud and the Villains, that should be a fun show. We also have Casey Abrams performing, definitely looking forward to that. Oh, and Steve Valentine! I took my wife with me to check out the show (she’s like a barometer for performances – she can be a hard-to-please audience) and she loved it. Steve Valentine is a great personality and really talented magician. Seeing his act in a smaller, more intimate theater like the Nakano will be a treat.
Q: This seems like a good time to ask, how do you decide which acts to book? What’s that process like?
Chris: This is actually a long process and can take a while! I attend booking conferences where there are a lot of agents and managers and presenters. I try to create and maintain relationships with artists, and agents, and managers, too, because they’ll clue me in to new acts or performers.
I do my best to keep my ears open to what’s out there and touring, and I look for really high-quality shows, especially shows that might not be getting a lot of attention. I look for performers who are new or that I think our audience would like (even when they’re not my personal taste) because I want to find acts that have a broader appeal. And I vet all the shows myself that might not be on the market.
Often times artists who don’t know how to get an agent, or don’t want an agent, turn out to be these hidden gems who might not find a bigger audience otherwise. I love finding gems like this and helping them move towards success.
I’m really proud of the relationships I’ve built over the past 20+ years with TOCA. I work to maintain good relationships with agents and managers and they give me a heads-up when talent they like is coming through our area so I can reach out. I book our seasons at least a year, sometimes more, in advance. And I’m proud that we’re able to keep our ticket prices low and accessible to our community.
Q: Speaking of the community, how did the South Bay Festival of the Arts go?
Chris: It wildly exceeded our expectations! We hoped that we’d have 3000 people attend and we estimated that we had about that many. We’ve heard from many members of the community that they loved the shows and workshops, and I feel that people walked away with a renewed interest in the arts, which was really the ultimate goal.
Q: Will the Festival be back next year?
Chris: Yes, absolutely! A lot of it will stay the same, but we’ll definitely work on tweaking some of the details. For the first time doing a major event like this, we learned a lot and will make it even better next time.
Q: What does the future of TOCA look like?
Chris: We want to keep helping people to connect with the arts. It’s about reaching people and inspiring them to participate in the arts, whatever form that might be. In general, art does so much good for people and we want to keep that happening.
We want to help artists find their voice and help the South Bay community find the artists. It’s important to be able to take a break from the world for a while and immerse yourself in creativity, whether it’s music or painting or dancing. It’s rejuvenating.
We’re a small organization so we don’t have lofty goals or huge names. But we can introduce new artists to a lot of people. We want to keep bringing in high-quality performances so that people will know we do good work and will take a chance on an artist they’ve never heard about before.
New Season Brochure Available Now
The brochure for the 2017-18 Season is now available. Download The Brochure here! We’re bringing back the Studio Cabaret Series, Guest Artist Series, and Family Performances, and are also bringing in National Theatre Live (a series of stage performances recorded in the UK).
Buy tickets to three or more shows to save 10% and qualify as a Season Subscriber to get all their benefits.
We’ll see you at the theatre!