Carole Kleinberg will be the first to tell you she’s a control freak. It’s one of the reasons why she pursued directing and not acting as a theater major 50 years ago.
She’s also a stickler for details.
It’s why when she shows up for an interview at the Banyan Theater Company’s rehearsal space at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, her turquoise sandals match her turquoise earrings, bracelet and camisole.
In 2008, Kleinberg, the former director of education and outreach at the Asolo Repertory Theatre, replaced Gil Lazier as the Banyan’s artistic director. In just two years, Kleinberg, a retired 30-year theater professor from Chicago, developed a Banyan internship program, added actor discussion panels to the end of each production and launched a series of staged readings to spotlight new local playwrights.
To keep the summer-theater company on people’s minds year round.
“It’s what my whole life has led me to,” Kleinberg says. “This moment and this place. It’s everything. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
At age 72, she says she’s finally landed her dream job.
Seated at a round table in a break room with prop master Annette Breazeale and costume designer Kaylene McCaw, Kleinberg sips a mimosa and bandies ideas back and forth with the women — both of whom are working on “The Drawer Boy,” which opens July 15 under Kleinberg’s direction.
Like the theater doyenne she is, Kleinberg rules the conversation with the ease of a veteran director who has no problem being candid or drinking mimosas at two o’clock in the afternoon.
“Do you see the actors in jeans or shorts?” McCaw asks.
“You tell me,” Kleinberg says. “You lived on a farm.”
“Should I contact the actors to ask them what they want in their sandwiches?” Breazeale asks.
“Well one sandwich has to be ham,” Kleinberg replies, citing a line in the script that references a ham sandwich.
“The question,” Kleinberg continues, “is who can draw the blueprint? There’s a very specific description in the play of what the drawer boy actually draws.”
Meanwhile, one room over, actors rehearse for Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” which opens June 24 and kicks off the company’s ninth season.
“Carole has a huge heart,” says Bruce Rodgers, executive director at the Hermitage Artist Retreat. “And I think that comes across in all the work she tries to do.”
Rodgers, the Asolo Rep’s former associate artistic director, hired Kleinberg in 1999 to steer the theater’s education department. The first time he met Kleinberg, she offered to work as an unpaid intern — at 57 years old, with 28 directorial credits to her name and three decades of theater education experience.
“She works hard,” Rodgers says. “She’d be developing a program or working on something and because she’s so passionate, all these details would surface. I used to tease her and tell her to simplify.”
Kleinberg recognizes these impulses. She was retired only one day from Oakton Community College, in Des Plaines, Ill., before she started working at the Asolo Rep.
Asked why she’s a good fit for the Banyan — especially as it prepares to roll out its 10th anniversary programming this winter — Kleinberg laughs.
“Ya know what? I’m old and I have a lot of experience,” she says.
As actors filter in and out of the break room and McCaw rises to measure them for costumes and Breazeale addresses prop concerns, Kleinberg shares one of her favorite theater stories.
She was 21, fresh from graduating from the University of Illinois, roaming the streets of London and looking for the site of Shakespeare’s Old Globe Theatre.
Without planning it, she passed the Old Vic Theatre, where she purchased a ticket to see Sir Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith the opening night of “Othello.”
“If I think about it now, I still cry,” Kleinberg says. “It was the most extraordinary experience I ever had. The play lived and breathed. It had heart and passion. It was Shakespeare as it was meant to be seen. It had guts.”
did you know?
• Carole Kleinberg’s license plate reads “GAMA LUV” because her grandchildren can’t pronounce grandma and instead call her “Gamma.”
• Kleinberg lives in the same Lido Key house that her grandparents, parents and daughter once lived in.
• Kleinberg has gone scuba diving in Palau, a tiny island nation in Micronesia about 500 miles east of the Philippines.
• In 1994, two years after her husband died, Kleinberg volunteered for the Israeli Army to help snap herself out of mourning. For six weeks she lived on a military base in The Golan Heights. She even wore combat boots and fatigues.
• The Banyan Theater Company keeps a stash of shawls and sweaters in its box office for patrons who get cold during shows.
if you go
The Banyan Theater Company opens its ninth season with “Ghosts” by Henrik Ibsen. The show runs June 24 to July 11, in the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. “The Drawer Boy” runs July 15 to Aug. 1. For more information, call 552-1032 or visit www.banyantheatercompany.com