20Q: Catching up with JPAC executive director Nathan Burkart


Anthony Wahl

Editor's Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area's arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person's artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.

Nathan Burkart

Nathan Burkart, a Janesville native and 2004 Craig High School grad, is back in town as the executive director of the Janesville Performing Arts Center.

After graduating high school, Burkart earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater from Webster Conservatory in St. Louis. From there, he moved to Los Angeles and worked as a professional actor for eight years, appearing in everything from a national McDonald's commercial to the Adam Sandler film “Jack and Jill.”

While in L.A., Burkart started his own theater company, the Los Angeles New Court Theatre, and helped triple the size of an acting school in Hollywood in just six months.

Burkart lives in Janesville with his wife, Megan, and their newborn son, Holden.

For more about the Janesville Performing Arts Center, visit JanesvillePAC.org.

1. You were born and raised in Janesville but moved west to work professionally. What do people who have never left Janesville take for granted about living here? Having affordable housing and education. You need literally a million dollars to own a house in any area that has nice schools and decent living situations. You also live what feels like half your life in your car. It would take me 45 minutes to drive 12 miles to work every day. I saw my hair losing its color in my car mirrors.

2. You're a new father. What aspect of parenthood were you least prepared for? The incredible love you have for your child. Everyone tells you that parenthood changes your life, but actually feeling it is something that I really don't think you can prep for. I always knew I'd love my kid, but the overall emotion that I was overcome with was awesome and powerful to say the least.

3. You and your brother Alex are twins. Name three things people assume about twins that make no sense. 1.) Twin powers. So many people think Alex and I might have some sort of supernatural power because we are twins. Sometimes when people ask, I tell them light shoots out of our hands when we touch to see their reactions.

2.) We are not the same person. Many people lump twins into a group. I always say that when you have salt and pepper, they are “salt and pepper,” not “the shakers.” 3.) All twins like the same things. Alex and I do share common interests, but we also like tons of different things. Some people think we need to like the same things because we have identical DNA.

4. What do you miss most/least about living in L.A.? My friends. I had a wonderful friend group in Los Angeles that was incredibly supportive and stretched me so much as a person and artist. Some of them have already visited, but I miss them every day. I bet you thought I'd say the weather. I don't miss the traffic or paying my massive rent bill every month.

5. Who is the most famous actor/actress you've met, and what were the circumstances? Adam Sandler cast me in one of his movies. I walked into the audition room and he was lying on the couch. I froze for a second before proceeding. Adam was awesome. I also got to work with Edward Albee quite a bit. Edward won three Pulitzer Prizes for his plays and was an incredible person to study from. Another fun story is that, while managing my café in Los Angeles, I routinely took care of Clay Matthews' parents. We became pretty good friends. The first day Clay actually came in, I went and hid in the kitchen and called my dad.

6. Do you have any pets? I have a blind Yorkshire terrier named Oliver. He is 10 years old and still loves to play with his ball.

7. Do you have any superstitions? Not really. I try not to say “Macbeth” backstage. If I accidentally do, I always brush it off and say, “Let's see what happens.”

8. If you could choose someone to play you in a film about your life, who would it be? Andrew Garfield. I think he is an incredible actor, and his acting is very similar to mine. Not to mention my wife thinks he's attractive.

9. Do you plan to do any acting locally? I do. I would love to act and direct eventually. I am taking the time to really dive into my new role at JPAC, but in a few months, I think I'll be ready to take on those other opportunities. Maybe a project or two a year tops. My wife is also a super talented singer/actor, so I look forward to her participating eventually, too.

10. Can you cook? I am a terrible cook. One time, I felt inspired to cook something for Meg, so I made pasta and threw green beans in there. She laughed when she tasted it and let me know I was relieved from any future cooking duties.

11. You're a sports fan. If you had to choose between tickets to your favorite theater production and tickets to Lambeau Field, which would you choose? If they were NFC Championship tickets, I would take those. Otherwise, I would take the theater tickets. I can go to other sporting events. You throw “Hamilton” tickets in front of me, and it's a no-brainer.

12. Share something the executive director of a performing arts center gets excited about that the general public wouldn't understand. When I hear that someone will donate a large tech item I was going to have to rent. When bringing in shows, I need to budget for much more than just the artist fees. There is tech, backline and hospitality. When I can find ways to drive those other costs down, it gives me flexibility to be creative with the rest of my budget. Flexibility makes me excited.

13. Do you have a mentor? I have many mentors. I look at the board at JPAC as my current mentors. They have taught me so much since I've been here, and I look up to them very much. The owner of the acting school I managed in L.A. was another mentor of mine. He taught me how to integrate spirituality and activism into the entertainment field. I work hard to incorporate that into my job as ED at JPAC.

14. Share a memorable experience you've had while auditioning. I was asked to eat a cold burger during my audition. They told me to pretend I loved that burger. After I got done, the person running the audition asked if I was a vegetarian. I said, “No,” and they said, “You looked like that burger was the worst thing you have ever eaten in your life.” We did it again, and I actually booked that McDonald's spot.

15. What is your main objective as executive director of JPAC? To listen to what ideas the community has and to find ways to bring them to life.

16. Ever sung karaoke? My friends used to rent a karaoke room in Korea Town in L.A. Anything from a musical was usually a good way for me to jump into the fun. I prefer to do it with a partner than by myself.

17. Describe the underlying cultural differences between the Midwest and the West Coast. The West Coast is incredibly diverse. Almost every single country in the world is represented in Los Angeles. You get to see how different groups live, worship, eat and communicate with each other. Schools and public buildings would have days off for holidays that weren't just Christian holidays. I got to have so many experiences. I actually went to my first quinceanera and participated in a few events where English was not the primary language spoken.

18. Share something people would be surprised to find out about you. I still get nervous every time I go on stage. Some people don't realize that actors get nervous, too. I have always justified it by saying it's because I care so much. I always thought the minute I stop getting nervous is the minute I stop loving it.

19. When you were living in L.A., was there anything in particular about Janesville you missed, or vice versa? I missed a Janesville fall. I used to google images of “Autumn in Janesville” and make that my desktop picture. I missed my mentors and teachers from Janesville. I also missed clouds, which provide this awesome filter when you look at the sky. In L.A., there were times where I just saw too many clear blue skies. I know … how could that be possible? Now that I'm back, I would say I definitely miss the mountains and beaches. LA has an incredible terrain.

20. Were you looking for a reason to return to Janesville, or did this position just come along at the right time? I was looking to come home under the right circumstances. I always knew in my heart I'd be coming back to Wisconsin one day—I just didn't know when. When this position came up, it was something that I wanted. I cared so much about this building since (JPAC)  was being organized back in the early 2000s. I wanted to raise my family in Janesville, and I wanted my son to know his grandparents. Janesville is an incredible place.

Know someone involved in the local arts/entertainment community you think would be a great subject for 20Q? Email kicks Editor Greg Little at glittle@gazettextra.com.

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