Beginning her 19th season as the Reston Community Center's (RCC) resident performing arts guru, Leila Gordon says she is still just as excited as she was when she first started booking acts for the CenterStage in 1984. "Art never gets old," Gordon said. "It is the best part of being a human being. It's easy to watch a movie and to be moved, but on a biochemical, intellectual and emotional basis, nothing is as engaging as a good night in the theater. It is magical."
As usual, Gordon's line-up includes some old-time favorites like the Reduced Shakespeare Company, Snow White and Trout Fishing in America. "I think I would be lynched if I didn't bring Reduced Shakespeare back," she said, of the slapstick troupe that will close out the season in May.
One of the best parts of her job, Gordon says, is bringing in new talent to the Reston scene, like CenterStage's opening act, Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. "I love to get acts that are not quite on the radar screen but are going to be," she said. "Lavay is like that, she is quite the hot ticket. We really wanted to start off this season with a bang."
EACH YEAR GORDON treks to New York City to a convention where she tries to spot that "next great act." The performing arts director says she studied theater and thinks she has a "pretty good eye." But Gordon says she also relies on a "underground network of spies" to help her scout potential acts. About a third of the acts this season will be new to RCC while another third have performed only a couple times, she said. "I like to have a broad spectrum of tastes."
This year's lineup which begins on Sept. 28 and wraps up on May 23, 2004, is no exception. "It's a big aspect of the community center's mission," Gordon said. "In everything we do, we try to embrace diversity, different ages, different cultural perspectives and different art forms."
The music offered this season ranges from modern hip-hop to classic chamber music quartets. In addition, several authors, including Dave Eggers ("A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius") and Sarah Vowell ("The Partly Cloudy Patriot") will grace the RCC's Center Stage and interact with the 290-person audience. "Artists really enjoy the size and the intimacy of this theater," Gordon said. "They are happy to stay and chat. They don't have the luxury of doing that anywhere else in the region."
THIS YEAR, the Reston Community Center and its board of governors have been under siege from segments of the population, like the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, over issues ranging from a skate park to budget overruns. While Gordon's department has been spared criticism, she still takes the jabs and arrows personally. "It's hard for me to understand what has been the sources of such perplexing opposition," Gordon said. "Everybody who I know, including chamber members, who have come to see a show have loved their experiences. For every negative letter to the editor, there are probably 1,000 happy kids or 4,000 seniors who love this center. If they ever tried to take this center away from the community, this community would rise up in opposition."
For more information about the upcoming season or to purchase tickets, call the Reston Community Center 24-hour box office at 703-476-1111 or for general information call 703-476-4500. The RCC box office is open for walk-in orders on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 2 and 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m.