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Friday, 12 August 2016 14:49

New JPAC director has hometown roots

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Nathan Burkart is busy rediscovering his hometown of Janesville as the new executive director of the Janesville Performing Arts Center. Burkart did acting and started a small theater company with his twin brother, Alex, when the two lived in Los Angeles. Nathan Burkart is busy rediscovering his hometown of Janesville as the new executive director of the Janesville Performing Arts Center. Burkart did acting and started a small theater company with his twin brother, Alex, when the two lived in Los Angeles. Terry Mayer/staff

JANESVILLE -- A Janesville native has returned home from the bright lights of Los Angeles to lead a local arts program into the future.

Nathan Burkart, 30, recently was named the new executive director for the Janesville Performing Arts Center, replacing Beau Bisson, who left the job in February after being in the position for about a year.

"It’s amazing to me that I get to come back here and be a leader in this facility and this idea of fostering a creative community," Burkart said. "If I have to describe it in one word it would be exciting ..."

"(Before leaving Janesville), I knew (JPAC) was special. I knew it was important. Having a building that’s a symbol for all the arts coming together under one roof at the same time, it’s important to understand that we’re just not four walls. We can reach out in the community and be other things. The fact that this building exists is fantastic for the art scene."

Burkart began his new job June 20. Before starting the job, he regularly traveled from Los Angeles to Janesville to attend JPAC events.

"I came out during the weekend so I could be a part of the gala events and meet all the staff," Burkart said.

Burkart said his initial goal is to become familiar with JPAC’s operations and to develop relationships with other groups in the community.

"It’s interesting that I don’t have to drive 45 minutes to go 10 miles, so I can get reacquainted with some of the leaders at the library and meet with the executive directors at the Rotary Botanical Gardens and the historical society," Burkart said. "I’ll listen to them and see what they have to offer. I have an incredibly supportive board of directors, and they have been helping me every step of the way as far as getting acclimated with everything. I really can’t sing enough praises about what they’ve been able to do for me."

Burkart graduated from Craig High School in 2004. He then attended Webster University in St. Louis, where he received a bachelor’s degree in musical theater in 2008.

After graduating from college, Burkart and his twin brother, Alex, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. The brothers started the Los Angeles New Court Theatre in 2010. Burkart also established a nonprofit theater company.

"I started a Kickstarter program so we would get crowdsourcing campaigns, and that was to raise initial funds to get the theater going," Burkart said. "In Los Angeles, you’re very fortunate to have a (plethora) of actors. When you go to a theater school, you have a lot of people who like to perform.

"We started a small theater group that had about 30 people. Out there, since it’s so much money to own a facility, a lot of groups are nomadic, which means we rented space in different places."

While in Los Angeles, Burkart acted in a McDonald’s commercial and in several other commercials. He and Alex appeared in the Adam Sandler movie "Jack and Jill."

"We were just in the credits," Burkart said. "We auditioned for Adam Sandler and told him funny stories and did a comedy routine for him, then they did a loose script, put us on camera and threw us in at the end."

Burkart became interested in theater during his childhood and was involved with theater programs, including Speak Out Students and Spotlight on Kids. Burkart also performed in several productions at Craig High School. Besides acting, he also got involved with sound design and light board operation.

"I helped out where I could with theater. I wanted to learn different aspects of it," Burkart said. "When I started doing this, I loved the performing aspect of it.

"I’m at the point in my life where I enjoy the creation process more. People get fulfilled with getting up onstage and doing something. I get fulfilled now by seeing other people (perform) and creating ways for people to do that for themselves, that’s what gets me going."

Burkart said he might become involved with a production in the future, but right now his main goal is to become familiar with his job as JPAC’s executive director.

"I want to make sure my initial objectives are met, and that’s observing all the systems that are in place. I don’t want to do anything that may take me away from that," he said. "When I’m in the first few years of getting acclimated to the job, I think it’s more important to see how things run instead of interjecting myself into that right away.

"Down the road, I would love to do teaching and acting and directing. I would love to do all of that again, but I don’t have a timetable for when I’m going to be able to start that up, because it’s not going to be until I’m comfortable with what I’m doing now."

Besides theater, Burkart is interested in sports.

"People think sometimes that if you like the arts, you can’t like sports or if you like sports you can’t like the arts, and that’s not the case," Burkart said. "There’s this beauty in how they all kind of relate to each other, and I love the Packers. I love baseball. I go back and forth between the Cubs and Brewers. I play golf.

"I’m strictly a social golfer. I go out and enjoy the nature and have a good time. I went with my grandpa all the time, but I’m the type of guy where if you’re going with your boss and he doesn’t like to lose, bring Nathan."

Burkart is glad to be able to enjoy theater and sports in his hometown.

"I love Janesville. I didn’t appreciate a lot of things about Janesville until I left. When I went to Los Angeles, I started to see that there’s this beauty here that I totally did not appreciate when I was younger, things like kids being able to go to good public schools, having people ask you how your day is and the fact that I don’t have to be in my car all day," Burkart said. "To own a home (in Los Angeles), you need at least $1 million.

"You look at a community like this, where there’s so much going for it,  and you think, ‘It’s a beautiful city.’"

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