The Courthouse Center for the Arts (CCA) in West Kingston has a new director, but not necessarily a new direction. “First and foremost this is a community center for the arts, plural,” says Richard Ericson. “The highest priority of the board remains education.” Ericson feels his directive is to expand the center’s offerings and outreach to the community. “We are still developing our strategic plan,” he explains. “This fall will be for rebuilding and refocusing the agenda.”
The newly minted Consulting Artistic Producer has to build his staff, and among the new hires will be a development director, a comptroller/building manager, a press and marketing director and a full time music supervisor. There are also teachers to hire for classes and a roster of theater techs to put in place. In order to regroup, the previously planned fall
theater schedule (put in place by former director Russell Maitland, who left the Courthouse in the spring) was canceled and there will be a limited schedule until next year, when Ericson expects to have a full program in place.
Ericson brings a wealth of professional experience to the Courthouse. He holds a BFA in Drama from Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied acting. “I enjoyed the attention I got as an actor, but never felt entirely comfortable in my skin on stage,” he admits. “I always had much more interest in pulling together the entire show.” Over the years he has produced more than 75 shows on and off Broadway, in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as in regional and national tours. With partners Renny Serre and Laura Harris, Ericson founded FourQuest Entertainment in 1988 and ran the historic Theatre By the Sea in Matunuck for ten seasons. He directed their large scale, multi-cultural production of Wizard of Oz, which toured North America, Mexico and East Asia. He also has teaching credentials as an
assistant professor at SUNY Purchase, and instructor at Circle-in-the-Square and New York University (Tisch School of the Arts), Webster University in St. Louis and at the University of Rhode Island.
“The difference here is that I have never worked for a not-for-profit, with all that entails regarding the financial aspects,” he says, ”I’m really hopeful and I want to do this. The job is stewarding it financially and reaching out to make it happen here.” CCA’s financing comes
from a combination of grants, private donations and fundraising.
Born in Tokyo to an American diplomat, Ericson grew up all over the world. It was at age nine that he found his calling. His parents took him to see My Fair Lady on stage in London. “I remember the music starting and the curtain going up and sitting forward with my jaw dropping,” he laughs. “My mother says that she knew at that moment I was gone.”
Although he has lived in Rhode Island for the past 22 years, Ericson has been constantly on the road. “I was always bemoaning the fact that I didn’t feel a part of a community because I was always traveling.” He and his partner, Louis Raymond, a garden designer, live in an antique colonial in Hopkinton and co-own Renaissance Gardening. When the opportunity at the Courthouse came up, Raymond told him, “Stop whining and take the job! It will be good for you and good for them.”