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New Sunset artistic director looks to expand horizons

Nancy Visintainer-Armstrong has been named the full-time artistic director of Sunset Playhouse.

Nancy Visintainer-Armstrong has been named the full-time artistic director of Sunset Playhouse. Photo By C.T. Kruger

May 13, 2014

Don't let the name fool you. A new era is dawning for the Sunset Playhouse.

Having spent most of 2014 as the interim director of the community theater, Nancy Visintainer-Armstrong has been promoted to full-time artistic director at Sunset Playhouse.

Visintainer-Armstrong began working under her new title May 1.

"It was unanimous," Sunset Playhouse Board President Marla Eichmann said.

Visintainer-Armstrong is the owner of Viktor Viktoria, a company that previously operated five stores in the Milwaukee area. She found herself having more free time after deciding to operate the company online.

"I closed all the stores, and that's how I had time for this job," Visintainer-Armstrong said. "It's been a great opportunity, and I'm really enjoying it."

Sunset Playhouse's new artistic director has a wealth of experience to draw upon both in regard to theater and business management. In addition to her company, Visintainer-Armstrong has spent decades directing and choreographing shows. She was drama director at Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa for 25 years. Her experiences have taken her as far as Bangkok for a production of "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat."

"I've always been in (theater). It's always been a part of my life," Visintainer-Armstrong said.

She is a lifelong resident of Wauwatosa. She graduated from Carroll University with a bachelor's degree in business. She went on to earn master's degrees in theater and communication at Marquette University.

Eichmann believes Visintainer-Armstrong will be extremely helpful in growing the Sunset Playhouse due to the diversity of her experiences.

"Nancy just has that rare ability to mix the business sense with the artistic mind and you don't find that often," Eichmann said. "You find people focused on the artistic side, and they don't think as much about business. Sometimes, you need a more practical approach to stuff. Nancy has that."

As artistic director, Visintainer-Armstrong's duties amount to supervision over any and all aspects of Sunset Playhouse. She was hired part-time as the interim director of the non-profit establishment in January.

"I think having her as an interim was great. For us to be able to see, how does the person fit into the job?" Eichmann said. "It's not just putting on plays, it's the whole process. Having seen her in action, we saw that it was a very good (fit)."

Visintainer-Armstrong's husband has been a longtime volunteer at Sunset Playhouse. Her involvement with the theater began as a member of an advisory committee, and Eichmann said she noticed her quickly.

"I think that she had directed plays, but I thought she was working full-time as a teacher or something. I didn't even know she was available," Eichmann said. "I came to find out that she was available and she was interested. It just came together."

Hiring Visintainer-Armstrong as the interim director was a decision driven mostly by Eichmann; however, when it came to the issue of hiring her full-time, all nine members of the Sunset Playhouse Board expressed opinions.

"It was unanimous," Eichmann said.

Sunset Playhouse officials are encouraged by early numbers for the coming year. Season ticket sales for the upcoming 2014-15 campaign are up.

"We want to grow. We want to expand the audience, make the Sunset more well-known, and get the word out," Visintainer-Armstrong said.

If all goes according to plan, the Sunset Playhouse will soon see wider and brighter horizons.

If you go

WHAT: Sunset Playhouse

WHERE: 800 Elm Grove Road

NOW PLAYING: "I Hate Hamlet" and "Hey Diddle Diddle"

COMING SOON: "On Golden Pond" and "Gypsy"

TICKETS: Call the box office at (262) 782-4430.

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