Flordelino Lagundino: Twin Cities fans of arts and culture should get used to saying that operatic-sounding name.
It belongs to a director, actor and company builder whom Park Square Theatre has tapped as only the third artistic director in its 46-year history.
Lagundino, 47, takes the reins at the St. Paul playhouse Aug. 1, stepping into shoes made large by Richard Cook, who started at the theater in 1975 and took the helm in 1980. Cook built the company from a small-time amateur troupe to a professional playhouse with a $3.4 million annual budget and two stages that serve 80,000-plus patrons each year.
"Flordelino has a lot of qualities that I identify with," said Cook, who will stay on for the new director's first month. "He's a strong mid-career artist with an eclectic background: a photographer's eye, an actor's gut, a director's overview and a founder's energy. That combination is a sweet spot for the kind of work a midsize company like Park Square does."
A New York-based theater artist who travels the country for work, Lagundino has some familiarity with the Twin Cities. Last year he appeared in the smash production of "Vietgone" at Mixed Blood Theatre and was an assistant director for the Guthrie's spry revival of "Blithe Spirit".
Born in Takoma Park, Md., to Filipino professionals — his father is a physician, his mother a medical technologist — Lagundino wanted to follow his parents into medicine, intending on a pre-med major until, in his words, he "got weeded out by chemistry." He studied English instead and earned master's degrees in acting from the University of Texas and in directing from Brown University.
Lagundino is the outgoing artistic director of Generator Theater Company in Juneau, Alaska, and served in the same capacity for Leviathan Lab, a New York creative studio that advances Asian-American artists and work. He also has worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and California's La Jolla Playhouse.
His personal sense of mission grew out of obstacles he faced in the theater world. In college he wanted to be in "To Kill a Mockingbird" but was told there were "no Filipinos in the town," he recalled. "I felt invisible."
"I want to uplift all stories in our community," he said. "I've been working on giving voices to all people, whether Native Alaskans or Native Americans at La Jolla. I'm really interested in inclusion. You have to be able to do classics, whether Shakespeare, Chekhov or Molière, or contemporary works."
He and his wife, Jenny Lagundino — managing director for Page 73 Productions, a Brooklyn-based champion of new plays — have a 16-month-old daughter, Daryl.
He was attracted to Park Square because it is deeply beloved and it champions inclusion, he said.
"I've been working toward this goal for the past nine years," said Lagundino. "In the past, there has been fear that a person of color is going to make an organization culturally specific. But I don't think that's the case. We have deep knowledge of not only our culture, but the predominant culture. What I'm doing is adding to the wealth of all of our universal stories, but we don't want anyone to be 'othered.' "