Artist Spotlight: Actress, Director Grew Up in the World of Redlands Theater

Shannon Galuszka has spent a lifetime in the theater, growing up in the company that her father literally built.

“My mother is a trained opera singer and award-winning actress, and my father is a celebrated producer, director, educator and true Renaissance man,” said Galuszka, who has lived in Riverside since 2002.

Her father, Cliff Cabanilla, founded the Redlands Theatre Festival in 1972. At the time it performed in a vacant lot on State Street. Cabanilla noticed a piece of land near the Kimberly Crest House & Gardens. He got permission from the city of Redlands to turn the site into an amphitheater.

“I spent my summers at the Redlands Theatre Festival instead of vacationing,” Galuszka said, laughing.

As she moved into young adulthood, however, remaining part of the family business no longer appealed to her, she said. Galuszka tried to go into a different field and married someone with no interest in the arts. She soon divorced and returned home to get back on her feet.

“It was the comfort of my family and our theater home that pulled me through and gave me direction,” she said. “Later on, I made sure I chose a partner who was just as passionate about the arts and who wanted to take on this lifestyle that we’ve adopted.”

Cabanilla has passed the reins onto Galuska and her sister, Candice. Galuszka is executive director of the festival, while her sister runs the adjacent Carriage House venue and creates promotional materials. Galuska’s husband, Dennis, is in charge of all live music, carpentry and equipment in addition to running the tram service that takes audience members up the road through Prospect Park to the venue.

“Phoebe, my almost 13 year old, continues on the tradition of working at the snack bar, performing and filling in on spotlight or whatever else is needed,” Galuszka said.

For a company that is celebrating its 46th season this summer, Galuszka says that the greatest challenge is finding affordable and attainable marketing strategies. Much of their core audience has either died or moved on.

“Here we are, tucked up in this magical little pocket of the city, on top of a hill surrounded by a bamboo forest,” she said. “We want to share our secret with the world. The shows are moving, the talent is some of the finest in the area, and our venue is beyond words.”

The Redlands Theatre Festival is also unique in that it operates as a repertory company, with five shows performed in rotation six days a week over two months. This season features 90 company members.

“Mounting five productions in the same space, with the same artists in different shows and capacities, at the same time makes my head hurt sometimes,” she says. “It’s always going to come down to this fantastic group of humans who donate, volunteer and dedicate their lives to doing this crazy thing we love.”

Galuszka is appearing in this season’s production of “Hay Fever” as Judith Bliss. She is also directing “Stupid F’ing Bird.” She counts each show as being among her career favorites.

In addition to her work with the festival, Galuszka teaches in the theater program at San Bernardino Valley College. She has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Theatre Arts from California State San Bernardino.

The Redlands Theatre Festival runs through Saturday, Aug. 18.

 Article from pe.com.