Archive for Sunday, August 15, 1999

INDIE THEATER TROUPES GIVE STUDENTS STAGE TIME

August 15, 1999

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Lawrence has several theater companies, which means actors have ample opportunities to perform.

A growing number of theater companies in Lawrence are providing alternative performance venues for aspiring actors and playwrights.

Five different troupes offer roles to students and actors in the community in a variety of shows, ranging from children's theater to musicals to comedies to original dramas and sketch comedies.

And even though each company faces various trials -- finding money to mount productions, looking for performance space and attracting the attention of both actors and audiences -- troupe members are buzzing about the increased opportunities that more theater organizations give the community.

"We realize that in the community of Lawrence there is so much untapped talent. Why let it go to waste?" EMU Theatre co-founder Trevor Ruder said.

Here's a rundown on who is offering Lawrence actors quality stage time:

  • The Seem-To-Be Players: The children's theater company has performed for more than 25 years and is seeking to broaden its audience base by branching out into collaborations with other organizations and by mounting productions outside children's theater.

The players are usually looking for technicians and actors.

"We are always interested in anyone who wants to be involved in the company and wants to help us out," company manager Shane Scheel said.

The players maintain both a local and national touring company. This fall they are concentrating on a collaboration with Kansas University's Theatre for Young People. This joint venture will produce "Schoolhouse Rock Live" later this fall on the Crafton-Preyer stage in Murphy Hall.

The players will provide the director, music director and some actors and prepare teaching materials for schools to use in conjunction with the performances.

KU students will have an opportunity to try out for roles or work as designers and technicians. The company will tour with the show later in the year.

The Seem-To-Be Players also will stage its "River City Revue" and "A Christmas Carol" during the fall semester, and is planning an original children's opera based on "The Emperor's New Clothes" next spring.

  • Rubber Egg Productions: Now in its third season, Rubber Egg was founded by three high school students to give students from middle-school through college a chance to act outside the educational system.

"We felt we didn't get enough opportunities for high school and junior high students to act in quality the-

See Indie, page 11E

ater," co-founder Maggie Beedles said.

Beedles was a high school junior when the company started, and is now a KU freshman. During her tenure, the young actors have staged productions of "Little Murders," "Little Women" and "Death of Romeo."

"Elves with Cookies" and "Sympathy for the Devil," two original plays by Lawrence playwright Chris Nelson, are slated for performance by Rubber Egg this season.

"Mostly we do young theater, usually aiming for college students and younger, but anyone can audition for Rubber Egg," Beedles said.

  • EMU Theatre and Buzzo Theatre: Both troupes are starting their second season of performances this fall, and both concentrate on new playwrights and original scripts.

EMU has staged several one-act plays and some full-length productions, including "White Plague" and "Living Pleasantly with Others." EMU has collaborated with Card Table Theatre and plans joint performances with Card Table and Buzzo later this year.

"We invite the entire community," Trevor Ruder said. "We want to provide a venue for anyone who desires to produce quality theater."

* Card Table Theatre: Will Averill wasn't looking to start a theater company two years ago. After all, he already had a regular acting gig working with the Seem-To-Be Players, but a visit from a friend majoring in music changed his mind.

"We decided to do a production when a friend of mine, who was in the Berklee (College) of Music, came to visit. We decided we should do something together," Averill said.

The end result was the original production of "Plastic Epiphanies."

Averill co-founded the group with Jeremy Auman, and has studied theater and playwriting at KU.

"I figured it would be fun to actually use the knowledge we gained at KU," Averill said.

Since then the troupe has staged productions at the Lawrence Arts Center, Varsity Theater and Liberty Hall. They concentrate on original works, but did produce David Mamet's "American Buffalo" last year.

Card Table has a variety of productions slated for the upcoming season, including performances of its "Victor Continental" comedy ensemble.

The company will also perform two one-act plays set in a bar in a joint venture English Alternative Theatre.

"We started out using people we knew, but we keep ourselves open to community actors. Otherwise, all of our old friends will get tired of us," Averill said.

-- Mitch Near is a part-time writer for the Journal-World. You can e-mail him at mnear@ljworld.com.



INDEPENDENT THEATER TROUPES

Here's how to get in touch with independent theaters in Lawrence:

  • Card Table Theatre: Will Averill and Jeremy Auman, co-founders, 832-9498.
  • EMU and Buzzo theater companies: Trevor Ruder (EMU) and Andy Stowers (Buzzo), 840-0044.
  • Rubber Egg Productions: Maggie Beedles, co-founder, 841-7118.
  • The Seem-To-Be Players: Ric Averill, artistic director, 842-6622, or Shane Scheel, manager, 838-3699.

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