While we didn’t know each other then, Andre Perry and I both spent time in San Francisco during the early aughts. Andre was a young creative at SF Interactive, and we worked in the ad biz during what we now fondly look back on as…interesting times. It took many years and many revolutions for our paths to cross. When that happened, Andre had become the Executive Director of the distinguished Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City. The Englert, for those who may not know, is a vibrant renovated vaudeville-era venue featuring a steady stream of diverse, eclectic acts such as Tig Notaro, Postmodern Jukebox, and Gaelic Storm, as well as original productions nurtured within the Theatre itself.
We sat down in the Theatre during a rare, quiet moment, on the heels of the Witching Hour Festival, to discuss Andre’s journey from internet advertising creative to curator and developer of the most direct-to-consumer content one can think of: live theatre. Oh, and so I could pitch him the idea for “Medoosa Live!,” my retelling of the Medusa tale from Greek mythology, set in a Midwestern gentleman’s club and re-envisioned in drag.
Andre was born and raised in Washington, D.C. but also spent time growing up in Southern Africa and France. At 22, he moved to San Francisco where he witnessed both the wild rise of the dot com industry as well as its sharp decline. It was his first face-to-face experience with the volatility of markets and taught him a lesson about the value of engendering sustainable projects. Shifting his focus, he worked in the educational sector for several years – teaching, writing curriculum for, and helping to build an independent middle school in the historic Mission District. He also played in bands, touring the country and producing and programming myriad underground arts events in the Bay Area. In 2005 he moved to Iowa City to attend the University of Iowa’s MFA Nonfiction Writing Program where he was a Dean’s Fellow. After completing his thesis, he taught undergraduate writing as a Provost’s Post-Graduate Fellow and also worked in the Academic Advising Center. During his time in school he co-founded Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival, a multi-day, multi-medium event that inhabits traditional and re-purposed venues in downtown Iowa City every spring. In 2008, he took a position as talent buyer at The Mill and in 2010 became the executive director of the Englert Theatre. He continues to work at the Englert, the Mill, and Mission Creek Festival, and also serves on the boards of FilmScene and the UNESCO City of Literature. He has twice been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and frequently reads and/or presents at literary events around the country.