Christopher J Simpson is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Contemporary Theater Company. A lifelong resident of Wakefield RI (aside from a few years away at school), he is dedicated to bringing his hometown opportunities to enjoy and excel through live performance, fostering community growth and artistic excellence at the same time. We asked him a few questions about his life and art-making in Rhode Island for our blog series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.
RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
CJS: My work day begins around 10am with a mix of artistic and administrative efforts – emailing, season planning, project communication, financial updates, fundraising work, review of design work, scheduling of production targets, and supervision of our ongoing facilities expansion. For a mid-day break I’ll work/play in our gardens, walk to Peace Dale for lunch, and perhaps a visit to the local climbing gym. By mid-afternoon I’m back to communicating and writing. There’s usually time for a quick dinner before rehearsal or teaching class in the evening, which usually lasts from about 6 to about 10. After that it’s either off to a local business for a meal, a drink, a board game with company members, or home with my fiancee Maggie for a meal, a movie, or a book.
RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
CJS: I was born in South Kingstown, I was fortunate enough to both travel a bit and to leave for college, and there is nowhere else I’d rather spend my time. This is a beautiful part of a beautiful state, and living and working in the community where I was raised gives me two essential things I need to succeed: leverage in the community and a deep sense of purpose.
RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your art practice/work as an arts and culture administrator?
CJS: I’m excited that my work as an performer, director, and teacher of both improvised and scripted theater is finding continuity and consistency within my own endeavors and with my colleagues here at the CTC. Our company has long valued “connectedness” on stage, but only a few individuals close to the company’s artistic core really knew what that meant. We’re increasingly skilled at communicating this value to our directors, actors and audiences, and that gives me great hope for the further development of our preferred style and of our artistic goals. Our key values of Authenticity, Spontaneity, and Connectedness increasingly guide our work in our scripted and improvised projects, and motivate our training, programmatic decisions, and our audience experience. It’s exciting to be consolidating knowledge and pushing our values to higher limits! To be growing our audiences and our company at the same time keeps me constantly motivated and engaged.
RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
CJS: This is hard to answer. It just seems right?
RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?
CJS: Honestly, a bit more funding. And to share that funding more equitably, and to be less jealous of one another’s successes.
RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?
CJS: Balancing between administration and artistic work. Too much time spent on either compromises my success in the other.