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Thread: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

  1. #1

    Default Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    I'm looking for thoughts, input on an issue that I feel strongly impacts Oklahoma City's efforts to attract business, commerce, and fights national perception of OKC as a "backwater" destination.

    At this time, Oklahoma is one of only FOUR states that do not have a professional resident theatre company (the others being North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming). To truly understand the distinction being made between professional and non-professional, a little information is necessary. We are not necessarily discussing "quality" of the art when discussing "professional" theatre. Both nationally and internationally, the definition of a professional theatre artist is membership in Actors' Equity, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States. With some specific exceptions, members of Actors' Equity are barred from appearing without the benefit of an Actors' Equity contract. Although it is possible for non-professional theatre organizations to obtain Actors' Equity contracts for their productions, this may only happen in very specific and limited occassions.

    So, professional theatre artists in the United States are not able (with the exception of Lyric Theatre, which only does musicals) to appear in Oklahoma. Or, that was the case until the inception of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre (CityRep) in 2002. CityRep was founded by a group of OCU alumni who, recognizing the renaissance of downtown OKC in the past decade, decided that it was BEYOND time for OKC to join the rest of the nation in enjoying this artistic resource.

    An additional point, agents and organizations that lease performance rights for theatre pieces restrict new works to "professional" productions for a substantial period of time, then release it for academic and community theatre productions. What this means is, OKC has not been able to provide theatre programming that reflects what is being offered in metropolitan communities across the country.

    For a state and city that enjoys a national reputation for training professional theatre artists, this lack of an acceptable local venue to showcase our own local and locally-trained theatre artists and to enjoy theatre programming that is current seems an odd and unnecessary disconnect.

    CityRep is entering its 6th year of producing, and is now being asked to justify its existence. Your thoughts on this subject will be greatly appreciated.

  2. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Actually, I thought the Lyric was a professional theater company. If they and the others are strictly volunteer or student companies, then, yes. We need a professional company. We also need a professional Opera company.

    The metro has around 1.2 or 1.3 million people. Much too large not to have professionals. Afterall, Tulsa is smaller than Oklahoma City, and they have professional Opera.

    One more thing. If by professional, you are only comparing to Broadway in New York City, and our companies pay for performance, even if it is one dollar, then we already have professional companies. What we would need ins "major league" players.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    As stated in my post, "professional" is a defenition of organizations operating under an agreement with Actors' Equity. That is the standard nationally and internationally for professional theatre artists in the U.S. And, yes, I also mentioned that Lyric IS a professional company, but they only do musicals. So, the artists who are not musical theatre performers had no acceptable venue.

  4. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    I'm confused? Are you saying that we don't have a professional company, or that City Rep is one, but it's at risk of going out of business?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    CityRep is one, but only 5 years old, and still struggling to find a foothold and audience.

  6. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    So we aren't one of only 4 states that don't have one?


    And what about Oklahoma City Theatre Company and the Pollard?

  7. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Part of CityRep's problem, ironically, is that we do have all these successful non-Equity theatrical companies in town: while this is a genuine boon to the fan, who can find one or two productions almost every week of the year, it means that CityRep, one of the newer kids on the block - Oklahoma City Theatre Company has completed seven seasons, I think, and Carpenter Square and Lyric go back decades - has to fight that much harder for visibility.

    That said, I was a season-ticket (Flexpass) holder at CityRep this past season, and I expect to renew: it will be worth it, I suspect, just to see The Fantasticks at close range.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Yes, we definitely need to support professional theater in Oklahoma City. I wish we had even half as much enthusiasm for the arts as we do for sports. Anyway, you can help by supporting CityRep. Go to their web site Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre.
    (And you are right jbrown, we are NOT one of the few states without any professional theater company!)
    Last edited by redland; 05-26-2007 at 05:13 PM. Reason: Add sentence/typo

  9. #9

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Once again, the industry "definition" of professional is signatory to Actors' Equity. Oklahoma City Theatre Company and The Pollard are not signatory. And, yes, at this time, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming are the only states without organizations that are Equity signatory. Here's an example for those of you who are theatregoers - Jonathan Beck Reed is a professional (member of Equity) actor. As such, he can only perform with CityRep and Lyric. Stacey Logan, Broadway star who is from Oklahoma City, was only able to appear in CityRep's "Bad Dates" because CityRep is signatory with Actors' Equity. I WANT TO MAKE IT CLEAR THAT, AS I SAID IN MY FIRST POST, THE DEFINITION OF "PROFESSIONAL" IS NOT MY OWN, NOR IS IT A COMMENT ON THE ARTISTIC LEVEL OF COMMUNITY THEATRES IN OKC.

  10. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    I understood your definition of professional, but this is what confused me:

    Quote Originally Posted by oreodad View Post
    At this time, Oklahoma is one of only FOUR states that do not have a professional resident theatre company (the others being North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming).

    I do agree that we need to support theatre in OKC as much as possible. I wish we had more community theatres as well, being an amateur actor myself.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    I can certainly understand your confusion.

  12. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    im still confused....

    OKC has City Rep, Lyric, Carpenter Sq, BLAC, and many other companies, so doesn't OKC have a professional company????

    And if so, why would OK be included in the list of states without a professional company????

    OR are you saying that in order to be professional you have to be certified as signatory by Actors Equity???

    And if so, then these OKC companies are not certified so they aren't professional but we need to be???

    Otherwise, I dont understand the posts?????
    Oklahoma City, the RENAISSANCE CITY!

  13. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Well he's saying that City Rep is the only one that's professional by his definition, but I still am confused as to why, at the beginning of his post, he said that we don't have a professional company.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    More important than having a professional theatre is having theatres and companies that are committed to high-quality productions. There are plenty of actors in OKC who are not Equity, but are every bit as good as most Equity performers I've seen and worked with. One of the biggest problems I've always had with Lyric is their practice of bringing in "big names" who usually aren't known to anyone outside of NYC, when OKC audiences would often times much rather see one of OKC's "big names" on stage.

    If CityRep is having a difficult time staying afloat, it will simply need to evolve and adapt to meet the demands of their audience. OKC audiences do not demand professional theatre. They demand to be entertained, whether they're seeing a free performance or spending $75 per ticket. I've seen productions at Jewel Box and Carpenter Square that were every bit as professional and entertaining as anything I've spent four times as much to see in Los Angeles, for example.

    Additionally, I'm not sure how many people even know CityRep exists. I only am aware of it having known many of the key players from several years ago. I never see advertising, I never hear about productions, etc. Granted, that's difficult to overcome in only 5 years, and I commend the group for sticking with it this long, but at some point people will have to know you're there if you want them to come see you.

    Know your audience and play to those strengths. It's hard enough trying to keep a production company afloat, much less turn a profit.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    It sounds like maybe there is just some apathy or lack of education on the part of the Oklahoma theater consumer. It sounds like CityRep needs to play up its role as a the only non-musical professional theater company in Oklahoma and use its access to Equity Actors as a point of promotion. If I understand correctly, it is the access to this talent that is its point of differntiation in this market and it is what makes professional theater what it is. I think if that is played up better and an educated theater goer sees value in that, then CityRep should become the premier theater outfit in Oklahoma, yes?

    So, maybe its not the we need a(nother) professional theater company, maybe we just need the one that we have to be better supported and better marketed as a unique product in the market. I think most theater goers in OK don't know the difference and Carpenter Square, Pollard, et al., are just better positioned in the market to date. CityRep needs to educate the local theater goer and then the ticket buyers will ultimately decide if it's needed or not, imo.

    (btw, I'd love to see it work as I don't like the idea of Oklahoma theater working from a limited talent pool, even if, to date, the other productions have found enough talent to fill their needs and satisfy their customers)

  16. #16

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    My point, though, is that the average theatregoer doesn't care if the actors are Equity or non-Equity. They only care about whether or not they are entertained and if the production meets their expectations.

    I can't imagine the talent pool in OKC is overflowing with Equity actors, so I'm not exactly sure why an Equity house would be a necessity. As an actor who is not in Equity, I don't really get excited about auditioning for CityRep, since the key roles will most likely go to Equity actors here or in surrounding states. As long as that makes the production better, I'm all for it.

    Additionally, the professional theatre companies (and by professional I mean companies that pay their actors), at least as far as I'm concerned, don't always have the higher production values that warrant charging 2 and sometime 3 times the cost of admission as compared to theatres that do not pay their actors.

  17. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    I think part of the problem is that they are doing plays that are too similar too Carpenter Square, Jewel Box, and the Pollard.

    If they have the ability to perform newer plays than these other non-equity theatres, then that should be a huge selling point. I haven't seen anyone around here do any of the big recent Pullitzer winners or other critically acclaimed recent shows like Proof, The History Boys, Doubt, Take Me Out, This is Our Youth, etc.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    They only care about whether or not they are entertained and if the production meets their expectations.
    Right. So, is Equity Actors a worthy brand? Is it a selling point. Clearly, it's not to Oklahoma City theater goers. It either doesn't make a real difference or they don't care. If it does make a difference, CityRep should promote that and see if Oklahoma Citians can tell the difference. If they can't or don't care, then we don't need it.

    I can't imagine the talent pool in OKC is overflowing with Equity actors, so I'm not exactly sure why an Equity house would be a necessity.
    Chicken and the egg I guess. With only one struggling non-musical professional theater company, why would any Equity Actor stay here? Also, only one non-musical company has access to Equity Actors from across the nation. No equity actor can come here for a production, unless it is for CityRep, right? Without it, none can come here at all. But again, does it make a difference to Oklahoma Theater goers. If it doesn't, then we know why we don't have any professional theater companies except CityRep.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Quote Originally Posted by jbrown84 View Post
    I think part of the problem is that they are doing plays that are too similar too Carpenter Square, Jewel Box, and the Pollard.

    If they have the ability to perform newer plays than these other non-equity theatres, then that should be a huge selling point. I haven't seen anyone around here do any of the big recent Pullitzer winners or other critically acclaimed recent shows like Proof, The History Boys, Doubt, Take Me Out, This is Our Youth, etc.
    Actually, Carpenter does a lot of critically acclaimed shows, but unless they're closer to mainstream, they don't have an audience in OKC. CST did Proof a few years ago, for example. But I agree there are plenty of quality shows that simply aren't being produced by anyone here. Having an Equity house doesn't necessarily mean you'll get brand new productions. Lyric has been doing mostly the same shows for years. CityRep isn't doing much of anything that can't be done at another theatre.

    As far as Equity theatre, I've been to many touring shows at the Civic Center where the house was maybe half full. I just don't think audiences will pay as much as an Equity house would need to charge for tickets, especially when they have so many options.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Quote Originally Posted by BDP View Post
    Chicken and the egg I guess. With only one struggling non-musical professional theater company, why would any Equity Actor stay here? Also, only one non-musical company has access to Equity Actors from across the nation. No equity actor can come here for a production, unless it is for CityRep, right? Without it, none can come here at all. But again, does it make a difference to Oklahoma Theater goers. If it doesn't, then we know why we don't have any professional theater companies except CityRep.
    Agreed, to a certain extent. As an actor, I really don't care whether I'm performing in an Equity house or a community theatre. I doubt that another Equity house will attract performers from around the nation, unless it's something on an even larger scale than Lyric.

    Something to add to the equation would be an Equity-waiver house, under a 99-seat agreement. Equity actors would be free to perform without modifying their Equity status, the audience would number less than 99 per performance, meaning smaller scale shows, sets, etc. and reasonable ticket prices. Additionally, non-Equity actors would also be able to audition and perform. Perhaps it's something CityRep should consider?

  21. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Quote Originally Posted by barrettd View Post
    As far as Equity theatre, I've been to many touring shows at the Civic Center where the house was maybe half full.
    I've never seen that. Wicked sold out 16 shows this month. I know that's about as commercial as you get, but if we can do 16 sold out Wicked shows in that venue, City Rep should be able to do well with a 3-weekend run in the Freede.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Quote Originally Posted by jbrown84 View Post
    I've never seen that. Wicked sold out 16 shows this month. I know that's about as commercial as you get, but if we can do 16 sold out Wicked shows in that venue, City Rep should be able to do well with a 3-weekend run in the Freede.
    I never had a doubt Wicked would sell out. You can't really compare that, I agree, with a show like Man of La Mancha, for instance. Wicked is a juggernaut, attracting an audience that otherwise wouldn't be interested in much the same way The Producers did.

    City Rep isn't doing Wicked. They're doing The Fantasticks and audiences can usually see a production of that at least once every few years at various area theatres. I don't disagree that they should be able to do well. Most area theatres *should* be able to do well, but most don't. Whether it's season selection, mismanagement, bad productions, most area theatres have a few nagging problems they refuse to acknowledge, which is precisely why they will not do well.

    I saw an outstanding production of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof a few weeks ago at the OKC Theatre Company, I think is the name of it (how's that for name recognition). I was one of about 20 people in the audience and the house manager didn't have enough (xeroxed) programs for all the audience members! That's inexcusable. Additionally, the tickets are terribly overpriced and a hassle to even purchase without excessive service fees.

    That's just one example of an area theatre who probably won't be around too much longer unless they recognize their shortcomings and take measures to fix them. I can't speak for City Rep since I've never seen a show there.

    My basic point is that OKC doesn't *need* a professional theatre company, they just need more competently run theatre companies.

  23. Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Quote Originally Posted by barrettd View Post
    the OKC Theatre Company, I think is the name of it (how's that for name recognition).
    Yeah, the utter lack of creativity there doesn't help with remembering either.

    Xeroxed programs and not enough? That's just lazy.

  24. #24

    Default Re: Does OKC need a professional theatre company?

    Just a heads up. There is a NEW youth theatre kicking off in August 2008. Check it out http://www.hopetheatreco.com

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