Austin Theatre Alliance
Executive Director Ken Stein exits
After seven years of seeing Congress Avenue's sister theatres, the Paramount and the State, through floods, renovations, and countless screenings and appearances by legendary entertainers, Ken Stein is moving on. Come June, when the 2010-2011 season winds down, the executive director of the Austin Theatre Alliance will be heading to Dallas with his family. The Chronicle took the opportunity to ask Stein about his time with these venerable stages.
Austin Chronicle: What do you remember from first taking on the job?
Ken Stein: I distinctly remember being somewhat nervous when I first started. The first problem was making payroll and how quickly could I turn things around and get the cash flow to a place where you're not worried about paying staff. But what really terrified me? My second day on the job, I was standing in the auditorium of the Paramount Theatre, and I suddenly became this history freak, where I wanted to know everything about the building, and the more I learned about it, the more terrified I became. You know, it's a state landmark. It's on the National Registry. It's this icon Downtown. I'm a fifth-generation Texan, I'm supposed to take care of this state landmark, and I was less concerned with making payroll and more concerned with: Will I be able to save this building? Is it going to burn down, fall down, crumble on my watch?
So the first couple of months of the job, I was often at the theatre very late by myself, and people like to say that it's haunted, and I think those stories are great. I will tell you that it seems to have a life, and so when you're there alone at night, you feel like you're not alone. So a couple of weeks into the job, I remember stopping suddenly in the middle of wherever I was headed and saying out loud to the building: "I'm just here to help. I just want to take care of you." And from that point forward, it just seemed to start clicking. And leaving the job, what I'm most proud of is all the improvements I've actually made to the physical space. It's making me very happy to think that before I walk away, I'll have the State Theatre back open again.