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VOL. 129 | NO. 32 | Monday, February 17, 2014

 

Stage Door Opens Arts Opportunities to All

By Don Wade

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In recreational sports, you might hear that it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. It is not so different in community theater.

“The ultimate goal lies in the process of theater,” said Brandon Kelly, artistic director for Stage Door Productions, a new 501(c)3 nonprofit performing arts organization housed in the Kroc Center of Memphis.

“It’s like a life philosophy,” Kelly said. “It’s like it doesn’t matter what happens at the end, so long as you did your best the whole time.”

Lindsay Mitchell, left, Brandon Kelly and Tracy Humphreys of Stage Door Productions, a nonprofit performing arts organization housed in the Kroc Center of Memphis. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Kelly is a co-founder of Stage Door along with co-founder and executive director Lindsay Mitchell, who, before this re-organization, managed the arts program under the auspices of the Salvation Army.

“There was jut a lot of red tape,” she said of the previous arrangement. “This is a win-win for the Salvation Army and Stage Door.”

In many respects, the production company is attempting to open a door to the arts for young people at a point where it might otherwise close. The public schools, Mitchell says, don’t have the resources to do as much as many teachers would like them to do. Many of the people they serve, Mitchell said, are “underserved.”

When Kelly and Mitchell helped put on a performing arts camp last summer at the Kroc Center that drew around 100 kids, Kelly said about 80 percent of them had no experience with singing, acting or dancing.

“They were scared and nervous,” he said. “And then they learned a dance in 30 minutes. They discovered if it’s possible to do this, what else can I do in education or a chosen field I want to go into?”

Said Mitchell: “The ultimate goal is to create a strong foundation for people to continue in the arts. We’re not looking to re-invent the wheel.”

Between them, Mitchell and Kelly have worked, performed and volunteered for virtually every other performing arts group in town. They have respect for what the other companies do. They also saw an opportunity to “fill a void” by offering productions based around the performers and something they call “Director’s Choice.”

The latter, Mitchell says, derives from the idea that every director has that “dream show” he or she wants to put on stage. That also sounds like an invitation for the most outlandish ideas, but Kelly said, “Every production at the Kroc Center has to be family appropriate, for all ages.”

And Mitchell said of the directors, “They’re pretty good at editing themselves.”

Mitchell also is excited about “Best of Broadway 2: A Musical Cabaret,” which will have three performances in late spring and is holding auditions from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kroc Center on March 1 and 2.

The auditions, Mitchell said, provide an opportunity for people to perform their favorite numbers regardless of whether those songs match up with a particular body type or “look” that a director might be seeking for the actual production.

Most of the productions will feature a pretty even split of experienced community theater actors and novices, Mitchell said.

“It’s really a place where people can break in,” she said.

And, more important, a place where kids can develop skills that will help them throughout life even if they never sing any place other than the shower or act anytime other than when playing a game of charades.

“Parents will ask all the time, ‘how is this going to help my kids later on?’” Mitchell said. “It helps with public speaking, just being sure of yourself. It gives you the ability to connect and come out of your shell. And it’s great for establishing a work ethic. You might be rehearsing for three months and there’s a commitment to seeing it through.”

For more information, go to www.stagedoormemphis.org or email Mitchell at lindsay@stagedoormemphis.org.

In addition to the auditions for the cabaret on March 1-2, Stage Door is offering a Performing Arts Camp for ages 5-17 from June 2-6. Cost is $125 for non-Kroc members and $100 for members.

From June 9-17, there is a Kids Cabaret Camp for ages 8-17. Cost is $225 for non-members, $200 for members.

Stage Door offers six-week classes in ballet and tap, among other disciplines, and Mitchell said a $100 scholarship donation from the public will pay for one child’s classes, clothes and shoes.

Stage Door also will put on “Godspell” this July. Auditions for that production are from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kroc Center on March 22-23.

Persons interested in applying for the Director’s Choice program should submit a proposal that includes a resume, show title, concept for the overall production and an explanation of your philosophy as a director, and a budget for the project. Those proposals should be submitted to admin@stagedoormemphis.org.

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