Monday, November 11, 2013

Pick a Show, Hold Auditions

I accidentally helped start a theatre company.  I’ve thought about it off and on over the years, but always brushed it aside as an impossible dream, a daunting task, a not going to happen scenario.  And yet, here I am introducing to you a new member of the greater Denver theatre family, The Foothills Theatre Company.  Born to the Littleton community in the Fall of 2013, it is here to entertain audiences, engage minds, and involve local artists.  It is here to offer great theatre to our neighborhoods, and bring talent out from hiding and onto the stage.  So how exactly was it an accident?  Well, I kind of stumbled over it when Regina Smith, Arts Department Specialist for Foothills Parks and Recreation District, left it lying around for me to trip over.   
          Smith and her good friend, Amalie Millhone, conceptualized the Foothills Theatre Company and decided to dive in.  With Smith's BA in theatre, plus all of her experience running a large arts department for a major organization, and Millhone's MA in theatre, they were ready to start something new and exciting.  "I kept saying, there are all these people who are just like me, who for whatever reason, stopped doing art and they need an outlet," says Millhone.  "They've got other lives and they've got jobs and they've got kids, and they're being practical, and I want to give those people a venue to be that impractical person they used to be or always dreamed of being."
         Millhone and Smith were students at Louisiana State University when they met and they worked on many shows together there.  They knew they worked well with each other, but they weren't sure how to begin putting together this new venture.  That's when they asked for my advice.  "We needed help," says Millhone.  "Theatre is a big thing, it takes more than two people."  I already worked for Smith as an acting teacher in her arts program, and I've been directing summer shows at the Arvada Center  and various other venues for many years.  "The two of us are actors. We didn't know how to put things together behind the scenes," says Smith of herself and Millhone. "So we contacted you because of your experience with directing and putting together productions.  We just said 'What do we need to do to get this started? How do we get our name out there?' And your advice to us was, 'Pick a show and hold auditions.'" And there it was.  I was involved, just like that.  I could take it or leave it, I could walk around it or step over it.  But I didn’t.  I tripped.  Once I tripped and fell, I couldn’t get back up.  I was in for good.
            Along with choosing a first show, we had to decide what we wanted our company to be about.  "We want to give people in this area a chance to perform, whether they've never performed before, or whether they retired from performing to have a family or a 'real' job, we want to give those people an opportunity to come back to the stage," says Smith.  "We want to offer really quality performances for people in our community to experience." 
            But why now?  When so many other well established theatre companies have closed in the last decade, what makes us so sure that we can make this happen?  "One of the benefits of being part of the larger organization of Foothills Parks and Recreation, is that we have the support of the district.  We have performance space that we can use right here in the rec center, we have rehearsal space, and we also have grant funding that we're already receiving from SCFD, and there are other grant opportunities as a part of Foothills," Smith says.  "So we have a little more flexibility than some of the other stand alone theatre companies.”
            "The economy wasn't my concern," says Millhone. "But what was?  An outlet for frustrations because of the economy." 
            We decided to take the “something for everyone” approach with our first show, and we settled on three one-act plays.  Blind Date, Inc, by Gerald P. Murphy, Trifles by Susan Glaspell, and Oh Night Divine - a short piece of mine.  All of these plays could be secured for little or no royalties - a bonus for a baby company with no money - and together they share the common theme of exploring human relationships in various forms.  The show title became Trifles and Other Plays. The three of us established our roles as well - I would direct, Millhone would be our stage manager/assistant director, and Smith would be our producer.           

         So what makes us think that out company will not only succeed, but stand out from the others in this area?  "I look at theatre right now and I see us doing the same old shows over and over because we're so desperate to put butts in the seats," says Millhone.  "I am so tired of seeing stuff that's tired.  You don't see people taking chances on anything.  I want a place where we showcase new work that is good.  It's out there. We have to be brave enough to put it on, and figure out how to do it economically."  
         Smith agrees.   "We want to make theatre accessible to everyone," she says.  “We're focused on collaboration and community involvement.  This is giving everyone an opportunity to share their work or their craft with this community.  We're really looking to highlight the local talent that we have," Smith adds.  
           My accidental role in this company is proving to be a very happy accident.  Foothills Theatre Company isn’t just about three women who wanted a theatre company – it’s about three women who want to bring the arts to our little ‘burb, and we want you to come with us.  Send us your script, come out and see a show, audition for us.  And don’t watch your step – just let yourself trip and fall in. 

The Foothills Theatre Company offers acting classes for children and adults.  You can see our class listings online at .  For more information about the Foothills Theatre Company, or to submit headshots, resumes, or scripts, please contact Regina Smith at 303-409-2612 or email

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