Transcendence seizes the ‘Moment’

Hard work is an essential part of any artistic or financial success.

Actor-singer-producer Brad Surosky, of Transcendence Theater Company, has learned that from personal experience – but he’s also learned that hard work is often not enough. Success also requires an additional little thing called luck.

“So many things have had to line up perfectly for us,” Surosky says of the rise of Transcendence, the rapidly expanding nonprofit arts-and-performance organization he co-founded, and for which he serves as Chief Operating Officer.

“We’ve all worked very, very hard, yes,” he says. “But we’ve also been incredibly lucky, and incredibly well-supported by this community. There have been a lot of steps and choices along the way, and if any of those choices had been different, this all might have turned out another way.”

“Broadway Under the Stars,” the company’s signature performance series, opens its 2016 season this weekend. Starting out the summer with a three-weekend show called “This Magic Moment” – the first of four separate programs between now and September – the open-air performances will once again be staged within the old winery ruins at Jack London State Historic Park.

“We’re really trying to up the volume on the event side of our performances this year,” Surosky says, “from what people experience when they arrive at the park, to what they see and hear on stage.” That, he acknowledges, is part of the challenge and the excitement of putting these shows together. “We don’t want people to think they are coming to the same show over and over,” he laughs.

One thing that will be new for 2016, he reveals, is the onstage appearance of not one, but two pregnant performers.

“This first show is called ‘This Magic Moment,’ right?” he says. “The idea is to explore all of those magical moments that happen throughout life. Motherhood is one of those moments so, yes, audiences will see two pregnant women, both of them a month or two from giving birth. There will be songs about that experience, and songs about every other kind of magic moment we experience in life.”

Surosky is married to Transcendence’s energetic Artistic Director Amy Miller, co-founder of the company along with Stephan Stubbins. Known as a hard behind-the-scenes worker, Surosky has also earned acclaim for his onstage knack for drawing a laugh with a single wide-eyed glance or perfectly-timed bit of physical comedy.

“I’ll be up there on stage a little bit again this year,” he says. “I was just informed I’ve been put into some kind of number in the first show - and I guess I’m going to find out what that number is whenever Amy needs me to know.”

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Surosky graduated from New York’s Tisch School of the Arts. While in New York, he performed in off-Broadway shows, then spent time in L.A., landing parts in such television shows as “Scrubs,” “Cold Case” and “Veronica Mars.” He and Miller officially moved to Sonoma three years ago, after kick-starting the first full season of Transcendence shows in 2012. By then, they were already putting together the pieces for what has since become an institution, and a certified summertime sensation.

According to Surosky, the pre-show picnicking-and-music portion of the evening – which has become as significant a part of the Transcendence experience as the evening performances themselves – will continue this year with a number of new food and wine vendors. First-timers will include the Girl & the Fig’s nomadic Fig Rig and a food tent featuring offerings from Glen Ellen’s Olive and Vine.

“This summer, we’re also focusing on creating some new kinds of experiences,” Surosky says. “In August, we will be doing a ‘speakeasy’ show.”

The company is keeping a lid on what exactly a “speakeasy show” is, and who will be in it. But what Surosky does reveal sounds intriguing and mysterious.

“It’ll be one of those things where you won’t know the location of the performance until the last minute,” he says. “You’ll buy a ticket, and then, 24-hours before, you’ll find out where it is. The show itself will be very immersive and amazing, something unlike anything we’ve done before.”

Surosky says that Transcendence hopes to become known for more than just a single series of outdoor shows staged once a year.

“From here on out, we’re trying to do things more year-round,” he says.

Last year, the company experimented with a well-attended indoor Christmas show at what was then Wells Fargo Center (now Luther Burbank Center for the Arts), and plans to repeat it with another holiday show this winter, expanding the run from three shows to five. But just before that, in November, Transcendence plans to introduce another new project, something they are calling “the Sonoma Adventure.”

“It’ll take place all around the Sonoma Plaza,” he says, describing the event as, “a kind of scavenger hunt performance thing” that is being designed as something wholly unique to the downtown area. “It’s going to involve the whole Sonoma community,” he says. “It’s going to be pretty cool.”

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