Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Week We Changed Everything

Hundreds of people I know and love share a dream. In the next seven days, it starts coming true.
Since I came from New York to work at Actors' Guild of Lexington in 1995, many of us have dreamed about that elusive next level: a real professional theatre for adult audiences. Over the ensuing years, artists and producers have tried and failed to make that dream a lasting reality. A stream of talent flowed to other cities for opportunities that our town could not offer. Many who remained came to doubt that Lexington would ever support a local professional company. Seven days from now, we won't need those doubts any longer. 

The Lexington Theatre Company has assembled a company of national and regional professional artists, and blended them with local singers, dancers, designers, and actors to produce 42nd STREET: a classic American musical about hope, hard work, and the way a big enough dream can change everything. I didn't think they could do it. I didn't think I could be a part of it. 

I have never been prouder of being wrong. 

When a friend told me about auditions, I dismissed the idea. "They are seeing people all over the country. They won't cast anyone from here." I said I didn't want to be a bit player to a bunch of put of town ringers. But the truth was, after all these years as a big fish in a small pond, I didn't believe I had the chops to hang with real pros. I was wrong about them, and about myself.

I was invited to audition for a supporting role, after the nationwide search didn't produce anyone the director liked for the part. She gave me a fair hearing; I showed my best stuff, and I got the call later that day. Pre-production was as well organized as any I was associated with in New York. When the cast list came out, I realized I would be on stage with people I had only read about. I arrived at the first rehearsal in a kind of fearful awe. But as I looked around the room I saw other familiar, less famous faces. Performers I had watched grow up at SCAPA. Designers whose sets I had built and whose lights I had played under. A stage manager I first met in the heat of the June sun at the Arboretum. And a director who had grown up in Lexington, paid her dues in regional theaters, and climbed all the way to the Broadway stage before bringing her talented husband and their dream back to her home town. 

Our home town. 

These weren't carpetbaggers. These were Kentucky producers who believed that our city, our artists, and our audiences were ready to work with the pros. And guess what? They were right. 

I have spent the past week sitting on the house slack-jawed as nationally known performers crafted their roles. And right beside them, Kentucky's own were dancing, singing, earning laughs, and perfecting stage fights. These young people are learning lessons about the profession that they will never forget.  I know they are, because I am. 

Our theatre community has the opportunity of a lifetime here. We have so many smart, talented, hard-working people. There is no question about our passion or our willingness to sacrifice. What we lack is a true flagship organization: a locally grown leader that can put us on the map, and help point the way toward making our city a professional home for all kinds of artists. 

Look, I'm not a glamorous actor. I have always preferred grit to glitter and substance to spectacle. I know I'm not going to make my living as a song-and-dance man in Broadway musicals. I'm an Off-Broadway kind of guy. But I also know that you can't have Off-Broadway without Broadway. 

The people who make theatre in Lexington are my family. And I believe my family needs this company to succeed. I hope you will support the LEX however you can. I hope you see the show. I hope you talk it up. I hope you share this post. And I hope that 20 years from now, I will remember this week with pride and say, "That was the moment that this city decided to go for the brass ring. And together, we changed everything."

Click here to learn more about the show, the company, and ways you can buy tickets to be there when we take our first step together.

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