We had the good fortune of connecting with Burton Wolfe and Lawrence Wong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Burton, Lawrence, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
I have always valued the diversity of life; the multi-varieties of flowers, trees and animals – including human beings of all heights, weights, skin colors, religions and cultures. This in-born feeling of respect and awe for diversity, became manifest when I was selected as the U.S. National Director of Productions and Events for the United Nations UNICEF. My responsibility was to raise funds working with noted celebrities, Julio Iglesias, Audrey Hepburn and many others from the U.S. and performers from other countries. I brought them to major US cities to help raise funds on behalf of the United Nations Children’s Fund. – How fortunate to get to know diverse cultures and artists. WORLD THEATER is an outgrowth of this work and UNICEF was the way I met my World Theater partner, Mr.Lawrence Wong – who is originally from Asia. Together at WORLD THEATER, we produce Broadway Musicals; local Community Theater featuring local adult and children performers; also International Performing Artists and diverse Special Events; and WORLD THEATER has classes for children and adults in the Theater Arts, Dance and Music. Also organizations rent the WORLD THEATER 300 seat state-of-the-art auditorium; or the smaller community room with stage and lighting; and rent the various sized classrooms.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
After puppet shows at age nine, I continued creating shows in my parents backyard, using neighborhood kid dancers and singers. – I was encouraged by my parents to donate the moneys raised from the shows to many charities like the ‘March of Dimes’ and others. – By the time I was about twelve, I started learning how to become a magician. Presto! I never pulled a rabbit out of a hat, but I did learn how to do some remarkable magic – and I was hired to perform most weekends by diverse organizations for crowds up to one thousand people at a time. I was soon able to support myself from the puppet and magic shows – and pay for my own college and university degrees in Theater and Speech Communications – which I later began teaching in high schools, and currently teach at Houston Community College. At WORLD THEATER I often direct well know Broadway Musicals, along with my original bilingual musicals (often performed in English and Mandarin; English and Vietnamese; English and Spanish. These bilingual shows have not only been performed here at the World Theater, but also in other cities and countries. I have currently authored several non fiction and fiction books: ‘Satan’s in Your Cell Phone, Save Your Soul,’ ‘Back to Goodness,’ and a current book I am writing about the world’s future. – It’s all been creative and fun working in the Arts, and with people of all ages, diverse artistic talents and cultural backgrounds. It’s been a joy!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Miller Outdoor Theater would be one of the places I would take visiting friends to enjoy its productions. Also B.J.’s restaurants and other restaurants with diverse cuisines, I would take visiting friends to the Houston Zoo and Houston museums, and also tour friends to San Antonio and Austin. Katy itself is rich with diversity. – I am told that the greater Houston area is 2nd to New York City in its diversity of cultures and cuisines.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
‘Shoutout’ for the support I received as a little boy from my parents. I started doing puppet shows when I was nine years old, and my father built me a wooden puppet theater; my mom helped sew costumes for the puppets and then I performed puppet shows for kids’ birthday parties and community special events – (and charged five dollars (5$) per show – self employed at nine. Second most important support over many years, comes from my business partner, Mr. Lawrence Wong. When we first met, he helped me bring the Hong Kong Orchestra to America. After that he helped me raise funds for a new musical that I wrote and produced in Toronto, Canada. He handles all of the operations for WORLD THEATER as well as designs our websites and diverse graphic publicity. Also thanks to , Dr. Scott Gehman, who for over more than a decade, has composed the music and orchestrations to my books and lyrics for more than fifteen of my original musicals. They have been performed here at WORLD THEATER, at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theater, as well as theaters in Florida, New York City and in other countries. There have been so many others who continue to support the work of WORLD THEATER. I shall always be grateful.
Linkedin: Burton Wolfe
Photo # 1. Burton Wolfe, World Theater Executive & Artistic Director, with Lawrence Wong, Producer and Dir. of Operations #2. Producers and cast of a Cultural Exchange #3. Charity Arts Workshop #4. World Theater ‘Cinderella’ cast #5. ‘Double Happiness’ – International bi-lingual production #6. World Theater ‘Wizard of Oz’ cast #7. World Theater ‘Main Stage’ Auditorium