The Profiler: Fred Chacon

The Profiler: Fred Chacon

Michele Ellson
Fred Chacon

Twenty-nine years ago, Fred Chacon came to Alameda in search of a job – and better weather. And over the three decades he’s been here, the West Covina native has been responsible for of much of the local theater scene, putting on dozens of productions at Alameda High School and through the Alameda Civic Light Opera, which he co-founded, and more recently at Altarena Playhouse. Chacon retires from Alameda High this week on a high note: His final production, of the musical “All Shook Up,” was nominated for nine Top Honor Awards by The Stage; the awards will be announced tonight. Here’s what he had to say about his long career.

What sparked your interest in theater?
I first got interested in theater when I was in high school. I had some great teachers who encouraged me to perform and so I got involved in drama.

What was your first production?
I don’t even remember. It might have been A Midsummer Night’s Dream in high school. And it’s a show I’ve done quite a few times over the years, at various levels in various situations. Maybe that’s why.

How did you end up at Alameda High School?
I had just finished a graduate program. I had previously worked with a man by the name of Jeff Daly who had come to Alameda to be the first sound director. He called me up and said hey, they’re trying to revive the drama program at Alameda High School, and I think you’d really like it. I was out of a job and I needed a job, so I came up here and I stayed. For almost 30 years I’ve been here.

Is there a difference between working with kids and adults?
There’s a lot of difference. The attention span of the students today is very short thanks to electronic devices. They’re constantly on their cell phones, they’re constantly playing games and Tweeting. They’re really distracted by their gadgets. Adults can control that. They know when to turn their phones off, and they have phone etiquette skills. Which high school students don’t have. Adults are just, they’re more mature. They make a choice to be in a production. And in high school sometimes it’s peer pressure, or it’s something else. It’s some other reason why they’re there.

What was your favorite production?
Oh my gosh. Well, there have been so many. I recently finished a production last summer at the Altarena of Private Lives that I did with my wife, which was a very enjoyable show. Before that I did a production at the Altarena of Spring Awakening, which I was very proud of. This year we just completed a production of All Shook Up, which was nominated for nine awards. We’re going down to the awards (today), with a couple busloads of kids. Whether we win anything or not, it doesn’t matter, we’ve been recognized for our work.

Have you ever had a show that was controversial?
Yes. There’s been plenty at the Altarena. Any time you do Cabaret it’s a little controversial. If you do the kissing scene between the two guys, it makes some people uncomfortable. Rocky Horror was a show some people were a little offended by, at the Altarena. And Oh My Godmother was another show some of the older patrons didn’t care for. And actually, Urinetown was kind of a controversial show. I did that at Altarena and Alameda High. Any time you have any kind of sex involved in a show, somebody’s going to complain. Basically, any show you do, there could be some controversy of some sort. Some controversy is good.

How did Alameda Civic Light Opera start?
When the Naval base closed, I had been doing all these drama productions at the high school, very successful musicals in the Kofman Auditorium. I had the idea we would start a community theater. I went to the city and asked them for some start-up money. And I got $25,000 to start this as sort of a summer stock musical theater for the community. We sort of emulated what they do at Woodminster. We opened it in 1997 with a big gala opening, and we did My Fair Lady. That was just a really huge, huge undertaking that I was involved with for eight years. It was just – a monster of organization. It was very expensive and eventually we just couldn’t keep it up. But it was exciting. We did some of the most wonderful shows. And we’re all very proud of all the work that was done in those years.

Are you retiring from everything?
I’m just retiring from school. I’m not retiring from the Altarena. I’ve been at the Altarena since 2005. It’s kind of a nice, fun, small place to work. It’s very manageable. And that’s what I like about it.

What’s one little-known fact about Fred Chacon?
I don’t know. Everybody seems to know everything about me.

Anything you’d like to add?
It’s been a great career, and it’s time for me to move on. And it’s time for somebody young to come in and take over. I’m grateful for the experience, but it’s time to go.