We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Crowder and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When my founding partners and I arrived in Austin, the population in the north metro area was booming (as it still is), but there were no professional theatre organizations specifically focused on serving that area. We felt there was an opportunity to meet a growing need.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Penfold was founded by actors. We’re drawn to intimate stories that let us peer into the hearts and minds of their characters. Empathy and hope are our touchstones. We have a firm rooting in community. We are not a McTheatre. We care deeply about our local artists and work hard to give them a platform where they can tell stories that speak specifically to where we live. We’ve been around for 13 years. We have real relationships with our followers. The ongoing dialogue between artist and audience is what makes the work so gratifying. We began Penfold because we believed the city was growing with such speed that not every one was being served. The north Austin metro area does not have the same established arts institutions we see in other metro areas of its size. It’s exciting to play a pioneering role. At the same time, creating something new is difficult. The infrastructure to support arts organizations is also not as developed. We’ve had to be creative with funding, creative with performance space, patient, adaptable and persistent. Yet here we are, in our 13th season, an established partner in the arts community with a body of work I’m extremely proud of.
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?
We’d probably take them to Polvo’s for Mexican food and The County Line for bbq. We’d paddleboard on Lady Bird lake. We’d walk 6th Street and South Congress. We’d take in a theatre performance at any of the dozens of small to mid-size companies. We’d two step at the white horse. We’d bike and cook and enjoy being outside in November in the way Austinites can.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh my, there are too many to include here. The dedicated professors at Abilene Christian University, Ohio University and the (now closed) National Theatre Conservatory taught me my craft. Ed Stern, Jack Young, the Theatre Communications Group and a host of others taught me what it meant to be an artistic director. Sean Martin (my co-founder) pushed me into the wildest ride of my professional life, and Nathan Jerkins (another co-founder) continues to be a steadfast source of encouragement and vision. Our board, staff, artists, audiences, donors and volunteers make everything we do possible. My wife and my family are the wind in my sails. It truly takes a village.
Photographers: Henry Huey, Kimberley Mead, Errich Petersen