35 Seasons in, the ‘The Race Theater Company‘ is still strong, beloved and finding its future. The fingerprint, literally left on many hearts by the enduring leadership of Kevin Moore, (who has been part of the HRTC since DAY ONE!!) now points the group in a new direction. Enter Kappy Kilburn.
‘I’ve been the executive director since 2018, but COVID kind of did its thing for the past couple years. ‘ Kilburn, who moved to Dayton from New York, has experience in Los Angeles and Pasadena…and is an alum of the Lincoln Center’s Directors Lab. ‘The Human Race has sustained and things look great for us moving forward.’ It’s a big jump from NYC to Dayton, but for Kilburn, it was kind of a homecoming. ‘ My Father worked at Armco. He was in the Air Force. As a kid, I think I visited the Air Force Museum dozens of times!’ That would be a bridge back for Kilburn. ‘It’s honestly funny how my first interview sort of went down. My dad was in the Dayton area and knew I would be interviewing at the Human Race, So, he GPSed the theater, found the building, parked his car, went in and met Kevin and Tara and said in a Star Wars homage “You have heard of Kappy Kilburn…I Am Her Father!” He loved the people and the theater….and I knew it was meant to be from there!’
And it is. Trading the NYC craziness in for a home and spot for a 93lb. dog (Fred) was just what Kilburn desired! ‘This is not a stepping stone. I love Dayton. This city is so loyal to its arts! It blows my mind the variety of culture in this community. So incredibly supportive here.’ Kilburn talks about her first foray into the Dayton nightlife, spending time at Masquerage, where she encountered India Summer, one of Dayton’s RubiGirls. ‘We were having this conversation, and here is this drag queen in full regalia, she was beautiful…and I thought to myself ‘I have found my people!’
And Dayton, thankfully, has found her. Kilburn is so approachable and at ease talking about all things theater. She gets the community vibe here. Everyone wanting success, and truly just trying to voice their opinions in hopes in helps keep the vibrancy of the arts scene alive. BUT, she is also aware that the Human Race Theater Company has something t live up to! ‘If we are going to be the Human Race Theater Company, then we have to find ways to be diverse and inclusive of all kinds of people!’ A great example of that dedication was the theater’s most recent production of ‘Everything that’s Beautiful,’ a story about a 10-year-old who was assigned male at birth but identifies as female. ‘The final performance, we invited folks from David’s Place and Dayton Children’s Hospital to come and talk with the audience about the show’s theme. It was expected to be a 15 minute discussion…it went for 45.’ A testament to the strength of diversity. ‘We have work to do to make all groups feel represented.’
Kilburn knows it’s not just diversity but balance that matters. That is not only reflected in the shows she helps to choose, along with Emily Wells, HRTC’s new Creative Director, but the audiences that come to see them.
‘We always have a pay what you can show during a play’s run. Theater must be accessible to all kinds of people. We want the stories being told to be heard by as many walks of life as possible.’ And that means younger folks as well. She is expanding the idea of job-shadowing and working with youth backstage, as well as front of house. ‘I really believe young people need to tell their stories as well. I want to find opportunity for them.’
Certainly, Dayton knows the impact we face losing Kevin Moore as the Creative Director. His dedication, his ideas and his creativity have paved the way for a strong and solid future at the Loft Theater. But, for now, the Human Race rests in the hands of a new visionary. Dayton can’t wait to see where she takes us!