Vintner's Cellar & Cascade Christmas' Jana Pulcini-Leard
Story by Kerri Regan
Photo: Kara Stewart
When a singer struggles with a note, “A Cascade Christmas” Director Jana Pulcini-Leard coaches expertly. When an actor fumbles a line, she encourages lovingly. When a cast member proposes a different way to block a scene on stage, she listens intently.
It’s second nature for this busy mother, wife, business owner and show director to honor the artists who are devoting countless hours to bring her vision to life.
“I think Jana is the perfect collaborator,” says Cascade Theatre General Manager Jeff Darling. “She has the ability to listen and then get people from many different groups to work together. I have never met a more positive person. She is always looking for solutions, not barriers.”
This marks Jana’s 10th year with “A Cascade Christmas,” her third year as director, and her 33rd stage show in 33 years. The production involves a staff of 12, a company team of 45 and numerous volunteers. “It’s not just my show and I’ve never felt that way,” Jana says. “We’ve really expanded our support system.”
Jana grew up in Palo Cedro and graduated from Red Bluff’s Mercy High School in 1998. She attended Shasta College and majored in recording arts and theater at Loyola Marymount College, where she met Alan Leard. They moved to Redding together, and Jana immersed herself in a wide variety of artistic endeavors.
After the Leards were married in 2004, they briefly moved to Port Hueneme, where Alan worked as a civilian engineer for the Navy and Jana worked with an after-school program and a talent agency. But soon they were Redding-bound for good, as Alan became a work-at-home Navy contractor and the two dreamed up “the wild idea” to open a winery. They bought the franchise and territory rights for Vintner’s Cellar of California, and their Redding shop quickly surpassed all other locations for sales. With business booming, Alan quit the Navy and the pair devoted their energy to running the winery, where customers can make and bottle their own wine, create custom wine labels, or just sit and sip a glass.
“It’s quaint and intimate. It’s kind of gotten the reputation as the Cheers of Redding,” Jana says. “We really do know everybody’s name. We know the story behind every single custom label that leaves our winery.”
They’re always trying to adapt to the community’s desires, and recently launched the “Paint With a Splash” series, where an artist guides guests through the creation of a painting while they sip wine, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and visit with friends.
Vintner’s Cellar also recently began selling local wines. “We love to do wine tastings with wines that were made within a 50-mile radius and grown in our dirt with our water by people who live here,” Alan says.
They’re also big proponents of supporting fellow small business owners. “They are either our customer or they could be our customer. They go see Jana’s shows,” Alan says. “I know times are tight, but if we could all make one decision a week to buy local, it could make an impact.”
Jana was the 2013 Downtown Businessperson of the Year, and the Leards have served on the boards for
the Downtown Redding Business Association, the Wine Walk and Viva Downtown. “We try to work collaboratively with everybody. We get together and think about how to work for a better downtown,” Jana says.
As opening night for “A Cascade Christmas” approaches, Jana’s attention is focused on the stage. Directing requires a drastically different eye than performing, but she has embraced the challenge. “On opening night for ‘A Cascade Christmas’ during my first year as director, we got a standing ovation, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, everything I’ve been thinking about in my head, I just saw on stage. I made it come to life and that’s amazing.’”
Although the curtains haven’t yet opened on this year’s holiday spectacular, Jana and her team recently cast the spring musical, “The Wizard of Oz.” “I want to make it the most visually stimulating production you’ve ever seen,” Jana says. “Think trapdoors and fire.”
The light of her life is son Avan, almost 2. While Jana visits with a guest in their living room, the blond boy peeks into the window from the backyard, giggling and blowing kisses to her while his dad draws a baseball diamond with sidewalk chalk on the patio. As a developer, superintendent and engineer for Appcelerator, Alan is also able to work mostly from home - the ideal setup for their young family.
So how does it work, a marriage between an actress and a technology guy, balancing the daily demands of raising a child, owning a business and producing shows? “We do refer to each other as our perfect love,” Jana says.
“We’re both creators at heart. Together, we make a really good team,” adds Alan.
Says Jana: “We live a totally weird life, but it’s perfect for us.” •
“A Cascade Christmas” • Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 5-7
Tickets $10-25 • Cascade Theatre, Redding
(530) 243-887 • www.cascadetheatre.org