Cloverdale’s Artistic Director’s Corner

Light the Candles … Well … Candle

“For eternally and always there is only one now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.”
- Erwin Schrodinger

 No, we are not cursing the darkness but marking a significant occasion for the Cloverdale Playhouse: our first birthday! On November 30, 2011, the Playhouse doors opened for its first public event: An Evening with George McGovern. The Senator, may he rest in peace, christened the Elizabeth Crump Theater with a profound sense of history, wit, and charm, regaling the crowd with stories of war and heroism, politics and patriotism, service and significance. We went on to celebrate the season with Holiday Gifts, a joyful collaboration with the Montgomery Chorale. Then, the 2012 Inaugural Season opened in February with The Gin Game, starring two amazing veterans of the community theater in our area, Eleanor Davis and Bill Nowell. The added nugget of history was that these fine actors have performed in over 100 plays but never acted together. You could have fooled me. They carried that play with ease, edge, style and sensitivity. The Boys Next Door had an ensemble of solid actors sharing a story that both broke your heart and set it soaring at the same time. My deep thanks to Greg Babb, Chris Ceponis, Jon Chapman, Stephen Dubberly, Tara Fenn, Aaron Fonseca, Roy Goldfinger, George Jacobsen, Calvin Johnson, Scott Page, Teri Sweeney, and Jaymee Vowell for making The Boys so memorable.

This summer, music resounded through our acoustically wonderful theater with Randy Foster’s production of Starting Here, Starting Now. The show featured Sarah Carlton, Kristi Humphreys, and Chase McMichen. What gifts they have! We were graced by an outstanding production. The fall brought Opus. This is a play that I was very excited to work on. It had not been done in this area, at least to my knowledge, and it was a privilege to bring it to life with five such extraordinary actors as Cushing Phillips, Desiré Gaston, Matthew Givens, Mark Hunter and Scott Page. Audiences were truly moved by the production and it was a source of great personal pride to be a part of it.

Interspersed throughout the season were a number of community events hosted by the Playhouse, as well as special performances including Irish Voices and Not Guilty. Anthony Stockard directed two: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill and Whitney, which took the roof off the place. Our first production of the Playhouse Children’s Theater Troupe, Fables Here and Then, was directed by the wonderful John McWilliams and his team of assistants, Alex Katz, Taylor Turner, and Hannah Trachey. The six talented actors performing stories and tales from around the world represented a great cross-section of schools in the area and we were truly blessed that these young actors took this on, given their busy schedules.

We launched the Playhouse School with spring, summer, and fall sessions. We produced two on-site play readings, which complimented an earlier play reading of a piece by Montgomery writer, Julia Oliver, in the summer of 2011, while the Playhouse was under renovations. Thanks to Huntingdon College for hosting this new work.

Our Joe Thomas, Jr. Third Tuesday Guitar Pull has become a staple in our schedule and one of my favorite nights at the Playhouse. The Pull features singer/songwriters who share their original work while the audience gets an inside look at the songwriter’s craft. December 18is our next 3rd Tuesday Pull, and our tenth in the series. We deeply miss Joe, whose creative inspiration sparked the songwriter’s night and whose spirit continues to keep us all in tune.

And now, as this holiday season is upon us, we ran our production of Alan Ayckbourn’s, Season’s Greetings, directed by the truly gifted Fiona MacLeod. It will open December 6 and runs through December 16. This is one funny play with a great cast of characters.Many thanks to this fine ensemble of players who wonderfully gave us season’s greetings.

Among and around all of the things that have gone on this past year is our amazing group of volunteers: Marshall St. Clair, Danny Davidson, James Treadway, Mike Winkelman, Cliff Morritt, George Jacobsen, Fletcher Hyde, Paul Brantley, Ed Fieder, and Sarah Hitchner, to name a special few. However, to thank all of our team, there aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to fill it with proper gratitude.

Engendered by the dream of Morris Dees and Susan Starr, an inspired group of organizers gave birth to an invigorated Board of Directors. From those “early” days, a successful capital campaign led to architectural plans drafted by Goodwyn, Mills, Cawood. The renovations to the Church at Fairview Avenue and Cloverdale Road began with Foshee Design & Construction leading the way, guided by John Foshee and Joe Pierce, and thus, the Playhouse was born into the community. The moral and financial support of all of our patrons and Friends of the Playhouse is truly an inspiration. The gift redounds to us a hundredfold.

Our audiences are found before and after performances enjoying the wonderful restaurants, pubs and coffee shops in the Cloverdale area. One of the great benefits of having a theater as part of the community is the commerce that is generated within the surrounding area. We continue to look for partnerships with all of our neighbors.

We are forging solid and continuing relationships with the colleges and universities in the area. Students from ASU, AUM, Faulkner, and Huntingdon are onstage, backstage, building sets and costumes, as well as stage managing some of our productions. Their essential participation helps them garner course credits through their schools and thrills us to have these fine and talented emerging artists in the Playhouse family.

There was no telling how or where we would land when the doors opened last November 30 and no telling where we will fly to in the next year or years to come. On we go, while day to day, Emily Flowers, our managing director and wearer of many other hats, keeps the place humming along with ne’er a hitch.

So … Happy First Birthday, Cloverdale Playhouse! As is traditional when the candle on the cake is lit and the wish is made before it is blown out (a wish you are not supposed to share) … but … my wish would be: Let it shine forth.


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