Why a theater company?

In the last post, I chronicled (as briefly as I could) what led to me starting a theater company in Somerset. Now I want to tell you why.

Theater is inspirational. Onstage, you can be anything and do anything. The exhilaration of a shared experience binds you to friends, family, and community.

woods and lake

Telling a story in theater is more than just words. It is lights, costumes, sets, sounds, actions, emotions, and so much more. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In theater, you must rely on everyone else, even the audience. And when something goes wrong – which it will – you must continue to trust that everyone is working together to make it right.

Theater captures our mindset and history in a unique way. It can provide an insight into our subconsciousness. If you have ever seen great theater, you understand what I mean. If you have not, then all I can tell you is: it is a breathtaking and awe-inspiring experience. And once you have that experience, you will go back over and over, hoping for a repeat. Not every production attains it, but every production aims for it.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to see Amazing Grace in Chicago before it goes to Broadway. It was such a beautiful and profound piece of theater, and perfectly exemplifies what I am trying to articulate in this post. I will write more about that later – it was a wonderful reminder of exactly what I am saying in this post.

Everything I describe above was how I felt from a young age. It is not until now that I even try to put it into words and still it is such an experiential process that I do not do it justice. I only attempt it now to impart some understanding of what I want to give to my hometown.

Theater-goers in Somerset have to travel at least 2 hours to see professional level theater. There is only one LORT theater in Kentucky: Actors Theatre of Louisville. Knoxville’s Clarence Brown Theatre is perhaps the next closest. My vision is for Somerset to become the home of Kentucky’s next regional theater company. 


This is Part 2 of 3 in a series about why I am founding a theater company. Come back next week for Part 3: My Vision!

Read Part 1

Visit Flashback Theater Co.’s website

Getting there – how I prepared to start a theater company

When I was a little girl – maybe 6 or 7, I was thrown into a church Christmas production at the last-minute because someone dropped out. I wasn’t in the show originally because my mom thought I was too young but desperate times…the show must go on..and well you get the idea.

That was my first experience in theater. I loved it. A few years later, I heard an announcement at school about auditions for a children’s production of Beauty & the Beast at the local community theater. I remembered my earlier performance experience and the feelings of excitement and accomplishment at the end of the show. I knew it was time to take the stage again. I begged my mom to take me to auditions and she warned that I might not get a big part – or even cast, but I insisted and ended up with the role of  Spoon in the Beast’s castle. I played my part well. When the Beast yelled, I shivered with fear. When Belle entered in her gown, I “Ooohhed” and “Ahhed” with amazement. I was rewarded for my emphatic reactions with a part in the next production…and so my “career” in community theater began.

Sommerrenae as Bertha Mae

Bertha Mae “Virgil and the City Slickers”

"Wizard of Oz"

Scarecrow “Wizard of Oz”

When I left for college, I thought I would pursue acting. That lasted about two months. Many of my friends have heard the story of a professor describing walking into a café and ordering hot water to mix with ketchup, making it a free meal of tomato soup…but they heard it in the context of how it made one of my best friends leave the program to pursue engineering instead. What they don’t know is that it also changed my perspective of what I wanted to do. No longer was acting an option for me because spending days auditioning and eating watered down ketchup was not my idea of a great life. I added a minor of Entrepreneurship to my Theater degree. 

You can’t get a degree in theater without working on productions – so I took up costuming. The costume shop was a perfect environment for me. I already had some sewing and craft experience from my aunt and granny as well as spatial reasoning from my dad so learning how to put patterns together was a piece of cake. When I designed for shows, I had to learn to manage a budget and costume crew members. Plus, I was able to get experience in the inner workings of productions – how directors work with designers, stage managers, and actors.

In 2010, I attended the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Lexington, KY. My friends were there to audition and interview for jobs – I was there for the experience. In the conference’s program, I saw an ad for a graduate school that had a program for “Arts Management.” The proverbial light bulb went off. I didn’t know anything about the program but I knew that was my next step. After some research, I found I lived within a stone’s throw of one of the top arts administration programs in the country, at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).

Everything was falling into place: studying theater and entrepreneurship prepared me for the arts administration degree. Back in my home town of Somerset, the downtown area was growing and renewing: a new judicial center was built, the old library became an arts center, restaurants were opening, and the county passed a measure to begin allowing sales of alcohol. Soon both Somerset and I would be ready for a new theater company.


This is Part 1 of 3 in a series about why I am founding a theater company. Come back next week for Part 2!

Learn about Flashback Theater Co.

 

Open Door

an open door

My favorite part of Ireland was: Castles! I could not get enough of them!

Specifically, I love the craftsmanship that goes into them. Doors are one of the many features that show this off – its so easy to just rush into the next room to see what new secrets await but once in awhile I would just stop and look at the door. The hardware, the size of it…some doors (like those in this picture) were much taller and wider than typical – some were so short I would have to duck to go through them. No standard size when these doors were hung!