St. Louis Siren Call?

“St. Louis Arch 8″ - photo by Christina Rutz

Last night I drove downtown to see “A Night in Vegas” at the Theatre on the Square’s second stage.  I enjoyed this funny show about gay relationships and will post a detailed review of it in the next day or so.

In the meantime, I’d like to write about a couple of casual conversations that I had in the lobby – separate conversations that turned out to be related and which got me thinking about Indy’s theatre scene in general.

First I ran into actor Justin Ivan Brown and his friend (I’m sorry I didn’t get the friend’s name!) in the TOTS lobby before the show.  You may remember Justin from the Mystery Café or from “bare: the musical.”

He told me that he is moving this week to St. Louis, Missouri. (He also told me it was okay to tell my blog readers about the move.)

Justin said that the cost of living is lower in St. Louis than in Indianapolis and there are many more theatres that pay actors for their work.  He said that many professional theatre companies in St. Louis share physical theatre spaces with each other in order to keep costs down.  He said there is a strong audience base that supports professional theatre in St. Louis, too.  All of this surprised me.

He also said that his friend, actor Sara Locker, whose work you may remember from “Proof,” moved there recently and “was cast in the lead of the first professional show she auditioned for.”

I wished him well, of course, but I felt sad that Indianapolis is losing him, and that we have already lost Sara Locker.

During intermission, I ran into Don Farrell.  He is the producing artistic director of Actors Theatre of Indiana, a professional theatre company here in central Indiana.  He had just been to see “Edges,” the show running this weekend only on the TOTS main stage and presented by the Programs theatre company.  “Edges” had started earlier than “Vegas” and only runs 80 minutes.  I’m looking forward to seeing it later in the weekend.

Don and I chatted about what it’s like to run one’s theatre company using other people’s spaces.  He was very appreciative of both the Pike Performing Arts Center, where ATI performs now, and of the storage and rehearsal space at one of ATI’s sponsors, McGuire Scenic, Inc

I said that I liked the Pike space, too, as an audience member, but that it’s very big.  Every time I go to a show there, I overhear at least one audience member say, “Such a good show!  Too bad there aren’t more people here.”  But when I look around and actually count the people, there are more than 200 people there!  It just feels like a small audience because the space is so vast.  I don’t know what to suggest in order to change people’s perceptions.

I asked if Don knew what the new Performing Arts Space will be like in Carmel.  He said it wasn’t scheduled to open until 2010, but that he was looking forward to sharing that space, too.

I admired Don’s cheery attitude (and it was a pleasure talking with him!) but I think that sharing a space would be challenging.  Who gets first dibs on the most desirable dates and times, for example?

I also remembered a conversation that I had had with one of the owners of the now pretty much defunct Alley Theater, who told me about having to deal with so many guest theatre companies who trashed the dressing rooms and damaged the equipment that he just decided to stop hosting.

A space could protect itself to some extent, I imagine, by charging big bucks to host, but then the theatre companies who were trying to cut costs in order to pay for professional actors have to spend more of their resources in writing grants and so on to pay the rent.

Sharing can be over-rated.

Well, for all I know, St. Louis’ professional theatre scene is over-rated, too.  (But I lived there as a child and still have family there.  I don’t know anything about the theatre scene there, but I can easily imagine that it is a vibrant one.)

And it’s not as if Indy doesn’t know how to share.  Look at ATI and Pike and Carmel.  Look at TOTS and Programs. Look at the IRT and Dance Kaleidoscope.  In community theatre, look at the Spotlight Players in Beech Grove hosting a Martinsville road show of “Godspell” last month.  Look at Ken Klingenmeier taking his Carmel Community Players production of “Art” to Wayne Township.  Look at the Indy Fringe Headquarters for a mixture of both.  Look at Storytelling Arts of Indiana and the Indiana History Center for yet another kind of sharing.

Still…I’ll accept a certain amount of flow of talent between Indy and other cities, but I don’t want to lose ALL of our best actors to cities who have learned how to truly support them.  I don’t have a big picture answer, either, but I do know that you and I can keep going to shows that interest us and show our support that way. 

‘See you at the theatre!

Hope Baugh –

4 thoughts on “St. Louis Siren Call?”

  1. Thanks for confirming the Alley Theatre is in fact gone. I never got a chance to go there, since the shows always conflicted with other engagement. I regret that, since they had some edgy stuff and it was reasonably priced.

    By the way, is Lowbrow Productions also kaput?

  2. I have been wondering about Lowbrow Productions, myself.

    As far as I know they have not done anything since their masterful production of “Assassins” in the Hedback Theatre (home of Footlite Musicals) a year ago December. One of Lowbrow’s founders, Doug Johnson, was in the long-running “November” at the Phoenix this past fall. He told me he is in rehearsals for another Phoenix show coming up this spring. I’ll ask him about Lowbrow when I wish him “happy birthday” on Facebook later today.

    I miss the Alley, too. It was a unique theatre space (an oblong black box rather than a cube) and, as you say, it hosted some unusual, edgy stuff for a reasonable price.

    Last summer, at the Indy Fringe Festival, I ran into the husband of the couple that used to run the Alley. He told me that he and his wife had separated. They wanted the theatre to continue, but they were still trying to figure out how it would work.

    I saw him again this fall one night when I was at Buck Creek judging an Encore show. He said again that he and his ex-wife want the Alley to continue, but still had no definite plans for doing so.

    I haven’t heard anything since, but feel sympathy for them both.

    Charles, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Your blog on Indiana wines is new to me. It looks interesting!

  3. I will see B. Noffke today and ask him about lowbrow. I saw Assassians and thought it was very well done.

  4. Update: Doug Johnson told me that Lowbrow Productions is currently developing a film script that they hope to shoot in the late spring or early summer.

    That’s all the info that I have now, but Doug promised to share more when he could.

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