What made you want to create your own theater?
Wanting to do something beyond myself, beyond performing a role and being done. I came back here to do a one-woman show at the Wells theater, and I was back and forth between New York and Virginia. My family is right here and I am very family oriented. When I was here I couldn’t help but notice that the art community in Chesapeake was still as non-existent as it was when I had left many many years ago. It seems like a shame because we have many art patrons, and we are the third largest city in our state. Aside from having no venue and no theater company, we don’t have an arts organization that teaches theatre to kids. People have to drive to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, which is hard for people to do. I lived here, and I had to travel all around. It was a lot.
"You can't get people excited twice"
I was thinking about doing more directing and producing, and nobody had the experience that I had. My grand mother had a lot of experience locally in the arts, she was the city council woman. She lives in Chesapeake now but she lived 30 years in Virginia beach, and she was in politics there. She helped to get the Sandler Center built in Virginia Beach when she was on council, and she helped to establish the foundation for the Governor’s school for the arts. She was all about business, but she was asked to do a lot of things for the arts.
"It seemed like everything was already in place"
She has a lot of great contacts in Chesapeake, so it seemed like the perfect line up of expertise for the theatre. I am learning a lot of the business and politics from her. Together we’ve been able to create a line up of great board members. We’ve been recruiting a board of directors since January, and we already have a show this September. You can’t get people excited twice, our season had to start in the fall and fast. It seemed like everything was already in place, and doors were opening, and I couldn’t ignore them. I believe that God has a plan for you, even if you think you know what you’re suppose to do. This was nothing I ever thought of doing before.
What were the practical steps you had to take to get there?
Incorporating, applying for non-profit status, that’s a lot of work. A lot of phone calls and paperwork. Establishing a board of directors. Speaking and presenting ourselves to different organizations, to business people in the city, the chamber of commerce, different groups; people that get things done and people that facilitate and have money or who help to get money; people that have a mind for service, or for getting their name out. Typical business and politics.
"My training as a performer is my ability to
demand focus and to manipulate energy"
How did being a performer helped you in the process of creating your company?
I didn’t know that I could do public speaking and I have spoken at a lot of different engagements. My training as a performer is my ability to demand focus and to manipulate energy. Unless you have a knack for public speaking you might not make as much an impact as you should, so my background helps me get through to people. My credentials back up what I’m doing. People don’t wonder how I could pull it off because I have the background to show for it.
"We're still facing challenges"
What were some of the challenges you had to face?
We’re still facing challenges. Fundraising is a challenge and will continue to be a challenge throughout the life of the theater, especially now and the times we are in. Getting the word out is a challenge. You really have to work on getting free press, and we’ve been really blessed in that area, because we have a lot o free press for different events we’ve done, and some local TV stuff.
A specific challenge is venue. Our city doesn’t have a venue so we are creating a venue by bringing in staging, mounting lighting, and putting up pipe and draping curtains. We have to prove that we have a real theater company and that will help build a real theater. It’s more financially draining to create a theater than to work in an already existing space.