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New Village Arts started as an idea Kristianne Kurner had for a theater company back in the late 1990s. At the time, Kurner was a member of the first graduating class of The Actor’s Studio in New York – an intense program led by James Lipton.

When Kurner graduated, she left New York for Los Angeles and started a family. But the theater scene in L.A. wasn’t doing so well at that time, so Kurner instead decided to make New Village Arts a reality.

In the latest episode of “I Made it in San Diego,” VOSD’s podcast about the region’s businesses and the people behind them, I talk to Kurner about how, with just a couple thousand dollars, she moved her family to Carlsbad and started a scrappy little theater company that eventually grew into one of the region’s most respected (Disclosure: I’ve done some acting for New Village Arts).

The company’s first production was inside an old chicken coop.

“It only had 25 seats, so we sold out every show,” she said. “It was really a great way to start because it got us a lot of attention.”

With more fans than it could pack into a chicken coop, New Village Arts had to upgrade.

Kurner struck up a friendship with Judi Sheppard Missett, the founder of Jazzercise, who offered the group a space to rehearse, hold classes and produce shows in the back of the Jazzercise warehouse. The shows filled up, classes kept getting added, and New Village Arts quickly outgrew that space, too.

It finally found a new home in the heart of what would become the thriving area known as Carlsbad Village. The company’s shows attracted new people to the neighborhood and played a role in its transformation.

“What we always believed was that if we did really good, quality work then the people would help to support it,” Kurner said.

Subscribe to I Made it in San Diego on iTunes or StitcherStream it here, or listen to past episodes here.

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