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

My Vision

So you’ve heard the what and the why. Now I’d like to tell you how.

The company I am founding will begin with a small festival and a large amount of passion. It is my intent to give you, the audience, the theatrical experience described in my last post of this series, binding us together as a community. I want to tell stories that are truthful and insightful, while staying true to our identity as the Lake Cumberland region.

Flashback Theater Co. MissionYou may be wondering why “Co.” and not “Company”. This theater will be more than just a company. It will be Collaborative. It will be a Community, a Cooperative, a Conversation.

Let’s give people in our community the chance to choose theater as a profession in the long-term, without the fear of never having something to eat. Let’s get friends and neighbors excited about seeing live theater on a regular basis. Let’s stimulate conversations and build our community’s relationships. I hope you are as excited about this as I am, because without you it can’t be done.

Today marks the start of our crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo for our first ever production, coming in February 2015. If you are excited about having a theater company in Somerset, Kentucky, please visit the Indiegogo campaign page to learn more about how you can help  Flashback Theater Co. reach its goal of raising $3,500 in three weeks.

 


In case you missed it:

Part I: Getting there – how I prepared to start a theater company
Part II: Why a theater company?

 

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