We had the good fortune of connecting with Evelyn Rudie and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Evelyn, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
When my husband/partner Chris DeCarlo (we are co-artistic directors of Santa Monica Playhouse since 1973) returned from Vietnam, he said the experience changed his life – it made him realize that in order for our society to survive, we had to put the “human” back in “humanity.” We met at the Playhouse and fell in love in a workshop there on his first night back from Vietnam (I know that’s answering another of your questions but it has a bearing on this one). I had been a child star (star on Hollywood Blvd’s Walk of Fame, youngest actor to ever receive an Emmy nomination) and although I was so fortunate to have supportive, objective, caring parents (I guess I’m now answering still another of your questions), I saw how many of my fellow child actors’ lives were destroyed by the negative aspects of the “biz,” When I grew up I determined to share with all the young people I encountered the love, joy and appreciation of theatre magic as a force for good, a force that would support the health and human aspect of our local and global community. Our paradigm speaks to the personal connections that help empower our actors and our audiences to become confident influencers in their families and their lives. The Playhouse is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year – it has directly impacted the lives of over 5 million people. Touching the hearts and minds with our constituency on a a one-on-one basis and igniting the passion that allows them to speak out loud the dreams of their artists’ voice is, I think, the thread that has kept us going all these years.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started acting when I was 3 years old in the Fred Astaire/Leslie Caron film “Daddy Long Legs.” My parents would rather I had gone into any other profession. My mom always said she would have preferred me to become a plumber, electrician or TV repair person because they always had steady work. Both my grandfather and my father were in the business, and because of that, they knew what a touch profession it was – the rejection, the uncertainty, the politics, etc. But once I did that first film, I was hooked. At the age of 5 I was cast as TV’s “Eloise” on Playhouse 90 and after that, I was able to work in television and film until I started at UCLA. Luckily for me, my parents, although supportive of my decision, made certain I led a “normal” life – I went to public school, I had play dates, went to parties, had the typical dance lessons, but they never let my success go to my head. When I reached high school they made certain I took a step back so that I could finish my education. After that, they said I could do whatever I wanted. Of course, I chose theatre. I started in a workshop at Santa Monica Playhouse the same day I started at UCLA and, as they say, the rest is history. I met my husband at the Playhouse, we took over as co-artistic directors in 1973 and have been there ever since. Was it easy? Yes and no. Yes, because we’re doing something we love, we’re touching people’s lives, we are part of a tremendous community of artists, and we are located in a city that is one of the biggest supporters of the arts in our entire company. Was it hard? Of course – it’s a struggle every day to keep the doors open, to develop new works, to offer unique and unusual theatre pieces and develop new audiences, especially those in the 25-45 age group. The biggest lesson? Follow your heart, don’t let anyone talk you out of doing what you feel is right. At the same time, LISTEN and accept input and feedback. Trust yourself, but know that you are not always right. And, as my father always said, “Don’t forget – it’s SHOW and it’s BUSINESS, so always keep the balance betwen the two.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Of course, the first thing I would do would be to have them see some shows at our theatre – one Family Theatre show, one Main Stage production. And then I would take them to most of the exciting Los Angeles activities that I never have time to visit myself. The Getty, MOMA, the Natural History Museum, a ride on the EXPO line from Santa Monica to downtown LA – a short visit to Fig and 7th for a little shopping, cupcakes at Sprinkles, more shopping on Santee Alley. Definitely the La Brea Tar Pits, Santa Monica Pier, the Music Center, as many intimate theatres as possible (if I start listing them, I’ll have a list of over 100), Farmer’s Market, the beach, of course. A drive up the coast towards Malibu, the Venice Boardwalk, Musso and Frank for lunch, the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard, if it’s November through January, the ice skating rink in Santa Monica. Eating? Langer’s Deli, El Cholo, Hillstone’s in Santa Monica, Lares Mexican Restaurant, Reddi-Chick at Brentwood Country Mart. A walk around the UCLA campus. Griffith Park and the Observatory.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband and partner, Chris DeCarlo, is the one person out of so many who has kept me safe and sane, allowed me to find my truths and be able to speak them out loud, who has been my support and the love of my heart for nearly 50 years. He has touched the lives of so many of our students, our artists, our audiences all over the world – sharing his unique outlook about the importance of theatre not as a luxury, but as a necessity in our lives. He mentors young people to become effective citizens, he guides actors to find a purpose in their work other than money and fame (although there’s nothing wrong with either) and practices what he propounds. It is his insights and his amazing out-of-the-box creativity that is the through line of my story.