Rubicon co-founder retires after 25 years

Rubicon Co-Founders James O’Neil and Karyl Lynn Burns with goddaughter Lauren Patten.

Rubicon Producing Artistic Director and Co-Founder Karyl Lynn Burns retired from the company on Sunday, November 13, following the acclaimed sold-out run of In the Heights. Says Burns, “It’s been a long and beautiful run and Jim [O’Neil] and I will forever be grateful to those we’ve met during our 25 years in Ventura who have taught us the meaning of community and showed us what can happen when dedicated and passionate people come together in pursuit of common goals. We are looking forward to beginning a new chapter, and to spending more time with each other and our families.”

“What we’re most excited about,” continues Burns, “is the opportunity to pass the torch to two longtime friends and collaborators, Beverly and Kirby Ward. They are multi-talented, incredibly diverse veteran performers with West End, Broadway and National Tour credits. After years of knowing them and working together at Rubicon, we have complete faith in them and trust that, with continued board and community support, they will take the company and the art to new heights.”

Burns and husband James O’Neil co-founded Rubicon in November of 1998 and have led the organization for nearly 25 years. During their tenure, the company has produced more than 160 comedies, dramas and musicals, including more than 20 world premieres. Under Karyl Lynn and Jim’s leadership, Rubicon received numerous awards, including the L.A. Drama Critics Special Award for Sustained Excellence, two New York Drama Desk Awards, Ovation Awards for Best Production of a Play, Larger Theatre (for Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and Gulf View Drive by Arlene Hutton), and an NAACP Award. Rubicon has taken five shows to New York and has also toured productions across the U.S. and to Tokyo, South Korea, London and Dublin. In addition to mainstage programming, Burns and O’Neil have produced festivals, special events, a Broadway concert series and extensive educational programming for young people ages 6-23.

The Wards have a long history at Rubicon, freelancing as directors and actors at the company since 2008. They stepped into ongoing administrative/creative staff positions in 2018 and were responsible for the direction and choreography of Rubicon’s critically acclaimed, sold-out run of Big River in 2019. The couple have worked together on stage and off for nearly half-a-century. They bring with them West End, Broadway, Off-Broadway, and National and International Tour credits.

Says Board President Doug Halter, “This is an ideal succession plan for the company that we all have been quietly working on together for some time and we are pleased to share the news with the public. We as a board and community owe Karyl Lynn and Jim a great debt for their many years of service,” adds Halter, “and for giving Ventura the gift of a professional not-for-profit theatre that we know and trust will be here for generations.”

Says Burns, “Parting with people and places you love is always sweet sorrow, but we leave knowing that this is the right time to infuse new vitality and vision into the organization as Bev and Kirby move Rubicon from a founder-driven organization to a strong and sustainable institution. There’s so much more to say; we look forward to time to express our gratitude personally to those who have made this Rubicon journey possible.”

True to the company’s name and the vision of founding artistic directors Karyl Lynn Burns and James O’Neil, Rubicon has created an environment where commitment and risk are encouraged, and where artists are nurtured and respected. As a result, the company has gained a reputation for invigorating interpretations of the classics and for supporting the development of new works. Rubicon presents at least one World Premiere each season, as well as readings of works-in-progress.

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