“Coming out of the first interview I called my partner and said, ‘Start packing!’” new LCC Theater Director Brian Haimbach says. In a discussion that was heavily peppered with descriptors like “smooth,” “easy” and “meant to be,” it is obvious that Haimbach is happy in his new home with the Titans. Stepping into the shoes of local legends Ed Raggazio and Patrick Torelle, Haimbach has a big job ahead of him, and one that he seems to be relishing.
Haimbach is taking his time absorbing the culture of LCC. “The diversity of students is amazing,” he marvels. He’s getting to know the workings of LCC’s unique Student Productions Association (where the plays are chosen and produced by students). His plans to involve Lane students in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and streamline the transfer process to four-year universities, indicate an inclination to build upon the current system rather than radically rearrange for the sake of change. However, he is no fan of the catch-as-catch-can, “theater-by-the-seat-of-our-pants mentality.” Haimbach offers a guiding principal: Take the time and energy to stage strong, high quality shows so that “everyone involved can have a rewarding experience.”
Many Eugene theatergoers have already met Haimbach through his stirring performance (as husband Dan Goodman) in Oregon Contemporary Theatre (OCT)’s inaugural production, Next to Normal. Part of Haimbach’s pledge to himself when uprooting from South Carolina to Eugene was to begin performing again, saying, “I consider myself a director first, but performing makes me a better director.”
The kismet with OCT continues, allowing Haimbach to rig up a mini Catherine Trieschmann play festival. Trieschmann was a graduate student with Haimbach at the University of Georgia, and he directed one of her first plays. As her career has grown, her play How The World Began was chosen to be part of OCT’s first season. Before he knew this, Haimbach had submitted her play Bridegroom at Blowing Rock for consideration at LCC. With two of her plays in production, Haimbach convinced Trieschmann to fly out for a talkback and hold a playwriting workshop. “I love her work,” Haimbach says. “There is nothing in [her work] that doesn’t have to be there. It’s clean and concise and packs a big punch.”
Opening April 11 at LCC is Haimbach’s local directing début with Bridegroom. Set at the end of the Civil War in a small North Carolina town, it follows the hopes and hardships of a family that has lost everything to the war. “It’s not a history play,” Haimbach insists. “At the end of the day it’s a love story … a revenge story. It’s about a family struggling to survive after a disaster and redefining their lives.” I asked why he chose to produce a play about the Civil War, as Eugene isn’t exactly a place where we are steeped in North versus South nostalgia. “It’s a story I could tell; this is the world that I come from,” Haimbach says, adding that for many Southerners, the Civil War is not over, and it is something that they remember daily. “I’ve been pretty homesick working on this play,” he notes wryly. But not so homesick as to regret his new home for a moment.
Bridegroom at Blowing Rock runs April 11-27 at LCC; $10, $8 students.