Reconnecting to Somerset this year and my surprising encounters

Somerset, Ky downtownWhen I decided to begin Flashback Theater Co, there was never a question of where. My little Kentucky hometown of Somerset isn’t so little anymore, and while it has matured in the areas of business development, tourism and selling alcohol, the arts have pretty much stayed the same since I left in 2007. (The old library was converted to an arts center in 2008, but considering the county took out a block of buildings including an art gallery for the new judicial plaza I’m considering that a wash.)

Still, as much as I knew about Somerset before packing up my car in January – there have been some surprises.

The Talent – I can’t believe the depth of talent that has been hiding in my little hometown. I knew there were people who had some experience with community theater and children’s theater but very talented people with professional training have been finding me too. My cast for And the Tide Shall Cover the Earth popped out of nowhere. These actors are ready to work, and have a good mix of experience levels. They are willing to be challenged, and are rising to the occasion at every rehearsal. The same was true for my Nibroc cast in February. The opportunity to hone their skills is being met head-on by each and every actor and I have the honor of pushing them as a group to make productions come alive.

Pricing Mindset – There is a skewed version of pricing in Somerset that I haven’t quite come to terms with. I’ve had this conversation with a few other people who have moved to Somerset from larger towns and have also had to adjust, but it still astonishes me. What people will pay for housing rent in Somerset is almost the same as in Cincinnati – except in Somerset, the place will be in notably worse condition. And small expenses don’t make sense either. Some lunch spots will charge $10 for half a sandwich, chips, and a drink – an order I regularly would get in Cincinnati for $5. I can only imagine its so the business owner can make enough money to cover the over-inflated rent, but its still a bizarre pricing structure for a place I thought would have lower living costs.

As for theater tickets: the college theater department charges $6 for their shows and can pretty easily fill their 120 (or so) seat theater for a one weekend run. The presenting series at the Center for Rural Development charges about $35 for a show, and comes nowhere near to filling their 750 seats. At the Star Theater in nearby Russell Springs, tickets range from $8 – $12 for adults, depending on if the show is a play or a musical. I settled on charging $12 for FbTC’s adult tickets, but with the odd pricing everywhere else, only time will tell if this is the right position for us.

Opportunities for Collaboration – I have been pleased to find several opportunities to expand the reach of the theater company through collaborative efforts and partnerships. Some of those opportunities are still being explored but I am confident most of them will come to fruition. Flashback is filling a niche of the performing arts previously unaddressed in Somerset, and I am looking forward to connecting with as many other organizations as possible to strengthen our community together.

What has been most surprising -funny enough- is that other people are surprised when I am willing to work with them. I guess its something that makes sense to me but the standard reaction to a proposed partnership is fear. Fear of not being in complete control of an event or fear of losing audience members stops otherwise interesting and productive collaborations in their tracks. Although in my experience you can only gain more art lovers, as they typically will support more than one organization.

When I made the commitment to stay here, I did not know for sure there would be talent and partnerships. Now I know they are here, and I hope to keep running into them at every turn.

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Flashback Theater Co. is a producing theater company with the mission of exploring the world, our past, and theater. Learn more by visiting the website http://www.flashbacktheater.co

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