- Courtesy Of José Rincon
- José Rincon
In September, Vermont's Lyric Theatre named a new executive director, José Rincon. The Burlington native replaces longtime Lyric ED Syndi Zook, who served in that role for 13 years. Her run culminated in the recent opening of new headquarters in South Burlington that, for the first time in the group's 43-year history, house all of Lyric's operations, including costume and set design workshops and storage, rehearsal spaces, and administrative offices.
Rincon, 33, appears well suited for the gig. He was a voice major at the Crane School of Music, State University of New York at Potsdam, and earned a master's degree in arts administration from Florida State University. Previously, Rincon was the artistic personnel manager for the Orchestra of St. Luke's, a New York City chamber orchestra that performs at such venues as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. As a performer, he belonged to the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and is part of a NYC-based drag cabaret troupe, Wigsticks.
This week, Lyric presents its annual fall show at Flynn MainStage in Burlington: a musical adaptation of the classic holiday movie A Christmas Story. Seven Days recently caught up with Rincon at the theater company's new home base.
SEVEN DAYS: What was your first-ever theater role?
JOSÉ RINCON: It was in a production of Aladdin at Mater Christi School. I think I was "Aladdin's Friend No. 3," or something like that.
SD: Was there a particular role or experience that made you want to pursue the performing arts?
JR: Well, my sophomore year at Rice [Memorial High School], I sang "Livin' la Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin. And that was definitely a highlight of my high school performing career. [Laughs]
SD: You have a strong background in opera. Where did that interest come from?
JR: I would credit my high school music teacher at Rice, Stephanie Hahn Nolan. She has a beautiful soprano voice and got me interested in listening to great singers, and I've been an avid fan ever since. Opera is the epitome of performing arts, in my opinion, because you've got theater and music and dance involved, and also the spectacle of producing the sets and the lights; it's all of these things coming together to produce this fabulous experience. Also, the drama — it's so melodramatic and over the top.
SD: What are some of your key goals for Lyric?
JR: Now that we have this space built out for our own purposes, I'm looking forward to seeing how else we can use this, for other theater groups in the area but also for Lyric membership, so they can learn more about how to build costumes and sets, and how to do lighting and sound.
Our productions are all put together by volunteers — people who donate their spare time and talents to make this happen. So, in order for us to put on the best performances possible, we have to educate people on how to do all of these important roles. So, how can we draw on the wealth of knowledge of our existing membership and pass that on to people who might be getting into theater for the first time?
SD: You don't choose what shows Lyric does. But if you did, what would be at the top of your wish list?
JR: The first Lyric show I saw when I was a kid, back in 1993, was Gypsy. It remains one of my favorite shows.
SD: What is the biggest challenge Lyric faces?
JR: Like all arts organizations, we're competing with a lot of arts and entertainment options for people to spend their money and time on. Refamiliarizing myself with Vermont, I was blown away by how much theater and art is happening. So, how do we make Lyric stand out? But at the same time, we want to work with everyone else, too. We feel that the health of all arts organizations helps across the board, Lyric included.
SD: Syndi Zook is an institution in Vermont theater. What's it like stepping into such big shoes?
JR: It is humbling. She has been such a driving force in Vermont theater for years and brought Lyric to a place where it was able to purchase a home. That's incredible. So it's an exciting time to be coming on. And I'm grateful that she has not gone away and is still here to help give me some of the institutional knowledge and introduce me to people who have been involved since 1974. I'm excited to see what else we can do from here.