Linda Purl, Director of the California International Theatre Festival
Calabasas should be known for more than breeding Kardashians.
At a theatre venue in the upscale town outside of Los Angeles, Linda Purl coordinates last-minute activities as director of the California International Theatre Festival that runs from July 17th – July 25th. Known for her co-starring role in Matlock, Purl is the recipient of six Dramalogue’s Best Actress awards and two as Best Producer.
She’s performed in many theatrical projects, on Broadway and across the country. She also has done over 40 movies-of-the-week.
She was the only foreigner who trained at the Toho Geino Academy in Japan. A true one-of-a-kind, Linda Purl is still making a mark and a difference. It’s no accident that she is an accomplished mountain climber.
“The genesis of the festival came after nine/eleven. We wanted to be a part of something that would work for the betterment of cross cultural understanding,” says Purl. “And you work from the arena you know—in my case, theatre. The dream was to bring people from around the world to perform, so we could share their stories. And [also], so they could go home and get a renewed, and perhaps a better, understanding of America.”
And who is preponderant to helm this massive feat? Born in Greenwich, Connecticut, Purl was raised in Japan, where she began her career and sometimes performed theatre in Japanese. Her studies continued in England, at LAMDA, the Neighborhood Playhouse and Lee Strasberg Institute. She still continues to travel internationally with her solo musical act, “Come Rain or Come Shine.” We spoke to her after a New York City stint as a jazz singer at the Metropolitan.
Being proactive, she approached Calabasas’ Mayor Barry Groveman with the festival idea, which includes a month-long apprentice program. He took the bait. “There are wonderful venues in Calabasas. The Viewpoint School has a 400-seat Prometheus theatre, an outdoor Greek Amphitheatre, and there’s also a beautiful black box space.”
“We pull in full productions from overseas and do one American performance.” This year: Broadway/ television actress Michelle Lee’s cabaret act, “Catch the Light,” directed by Ron Abel.
“Half of the equation is to bring in the shows, but the other half is for the public’s enjoyment. And it’s designed so you can see more than one performance each night. You can see the show from Canada, and then see Michelle. The theatres are within five minutes of each other. You can also attend a lecture. We have our Master coming in from China to discuss staging opera, and its origins with his robes and makeup.”
She has great backup. Her impressive artistic advisory council includes Alfred Molina, Beau Bridges and Kate Burton.
“This is more than a full time job,” says Purl. That being said, this year, she still managed to take a recurring role as Helene Beesly (Pam’s mom) on The Office, and guest star in both Desperate Housewives and Criminal Minds. “Theatre is my love. We have a good time with it and it feels meaningful!
“Fortunately, we’re able to keep our ticket prices low because of our sponsors – the city of Calabasas and Leo Bunnin. It’s so important to have people who understand our true community and quality of life. Thank goodness for the philanthropic gestures.”
This season, China, Israel, Canada, Ireland, the UK and Mexico will be represented. For more information, visit www.CITFestival.org.
Sue Facter, a theatre and travel buff, writes about all things A-list for publications worldwide. Her work has appeared in USA Today, People, Los Angeles Times and TV Guide.