On to new vistas

Aram Kouyoumdjian, artistic director of Vista Players, has staged a remarkable string of shows since 1999. His ambitious productions are new works by major playwrights filled with what Kouyoumdjian calls “social significance”—plays that larger, Equity companies regard as risky.

Equally notable, Kouyoumdjian’s company consistently filled the seats with ticket buyers. Two years ago, Vista Players’ production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia sold out the run. Vista Players even managed a nearly sold-out run with Three Hotels—a dark drama involving corporate malice.

“I believe there is an audience that is hungry for this kind of work,” Kouyoumdjian said. His track record seems to bear this out. “I think it’s an audience that [otherwise] would have to leave town and go to San Francisco or Berkeley in order to have that satisfaction.”

Kouyoumdjian has been meticulous about attracting ticket buyers for Vista Players’ eight Sacramento productions. “The question becomes ‘Who are you doing it for?’” he explained. “If you don’t generate an audience, then why all the effort? This is an audience-based art form.”

Kouyoumdjian keeps a mailing list and works from personal contacts, involving everyone in each show. He also has successfully reached out to community groups that might be interested in a show’s theme, selling scores of tickets. “The other thing we do, rather methodically, is keep track of where our audiences are coming from, rather than just guessing,” Kouyoumdjian said. “We monitor patterns of reservations. If we recognize one evening is looking light, and we have a waiting list for another night, we try to shift people so we are filling up evenly.”

This March, Kouyoumdjian will leave Sacramento for the vistas of Los Angeles. He has family there and plans to write plays in his personal time.