The Impresario

Boo Froebel Sets the Scene for Edgy Performance

While her high school friends went off to college, Froebel stayed home to work wardrobe at the Guthrie Theater, getting a close look at deft actors like Byron Jennings (who starred in Garland Wright's production of Richard III) and Ruth Maleczech (who was in JoAnne Akalaitis's staging of Genet's The Screens).

"That's one of the best ways to learn," Froebel says. "To watch a master doing it night after night, trying different things, and seeing how they adjust. You become sensitive to the subtleties. I was incredibly lucky to be around artists who were doing what they wanted and making a living at it."

After a couple of years at the University of Minnesota, she transferred to Sarah Lawrence, where she got a degree in theater, literature, and education in 1994. Returning briefly to Minneapolis, she signed on at the Walker Art Center, where she worked for John Killacky (now artistic director at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco) and Julie Voigt (now performing arts administrator at the Walker), and discovered how instrumental they were in finding an audience for the artists they put onstage. "If you feel strongly about a piece, you owe it to the artist to deliver an audience," she says. "Because if a show doesn't have an audience, I don't think it really happens. Just getting them on stage isn't enough."

The trick is finding a way to make the work accessible to potential viewers, finding, she says, "a balance between the hype language, where everything's got an exclamation point, and the really didactic, theoretical language you'd read in a performance studies program. That's a fascinating process for me. I love that."

Froebel is a lot like the social "connectors" Malcolm Gladwell describes in The Tipping Point. Her knack for bringing together artists and audiences was evident one night last winter, when she lured two colleagues from American Express to a remote warehouse in Bushwick. There, in the living room of choreographer Miguel Gutierrez, they watched his site-specific dance, enter the seen.

"It was a really lovely piece," Froebel says. "Crazy modern dance with an installation and droning electronic music. No melody at all, and no discernible narrative. I was wondering how [my colleagues] would react, and they reacted like I thought and hoped: They loved it. They absolutely loved it."

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