Mark Chenovick’s first time on a theatre stage was at age 9 — and he’s been hooked ever since.
He was in a musical about Thomas Jefferson and had to sing seven songs and memorize 50 pages of text. And while that much work could have turned many children off, Chenovick was bitten by the theater bug. The Helena, Mont. native spent his life working on and off stage in various capacities and is now executive director of the SecondStory Repertory (SSR) in Redmond Town Center.
He’s only been on the job since September but Chenovick, who graduated from the University of Washington in 1995, is already bringing the previously struggling theater back to life. The Bellevue resident said one of the keys to being successful is providing entertainment the Eastside is looking for, which means catering to young audiences with its Children’s Theater and presenting family friendly mainstage shows as well. Additionally, Chenovick has been expanding SSR classes and education program to draw more people into the arts.
While many of the changes made are easily and immediately visible, it has been the behind-the-scenes work he puts in that is making a difference. During these first few months on the job, Chenovick has worked to get the theater’s business affairs in order. This meant calling everyone they owed money to and pay off the debts. While this has been the most challenging aspect of the job, Chenovick said things are going great now that all the theater’s debts have been paid.
To help with this process, Chenovick donated his first month’s salary back to the theater.
“The theater has to come first,” Chenovick said. “(Getting business affairs in order) has been kind of the focus of my first couple of months here.”
This sentiment is something Chenovick takes to heart. He’s at the theater every day and usually only takes one day off per month.
“(Executive director) is a very challenging and time consuming job, and I think it would be difficult for anybody to succeed in this position if it was ‘just a job’ to them,” said SecondStory board member Danny Miller. “But Mark’s genuine passion is theatre.”
SecondStory board of director president Mark Waldstein said the practice changes Chenovick has made concerning show budgets and company bookkeeping has brought the theater in line with their fellow arts groups.
“After 12 full years in Redmond, I feel that change is welcome at SSR,” Waldstein said. “Yet none of Mark’s choices go against our traditions.”
Chenovick spent several years after college traveling and performing around the country. In 2003, he was cast in SecondStory’s production of “Baby,” which was when he met Jen Klos. Klos was a stage manager for the theater at the time but is now its production manager.
In 2008, Chenovick returned to SecondStory when he was cast in “Bat Boy.” It was then that Klos first approached Chenovick with the idea of coming to SecondStory.
“We started talking about theater in Redmond and the different ways there are to make it viable,” she said. “I knew I wanted him to work at the theater — we just needed to find the right timing.”
As executive director, Chenovick’s first show is the upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which opens Feb. 4 and runs through Feb. 26. Other shows have played since he started, but those were already in production by the time Chenovick came on board. “Much Ado” is the first show he has been part of since the very beginning.
Chenovick selected the show’s director Corey McDaniel and is in charge of the play’s sound design, which is like its soundtrack. In addition, Chenovick has fully immersed himself in the play’s production, from set design to construction, because he understands the importance of teamwork in a theater and also because he just can’t help but get involved.
“I’ve never been content with doing one little piece,” Chenovick said. “There’s always something to do.”