Help live theater prosper by giving talent a leg up

Published on Thursday, 25 July 2013 22:21 - Written by By Felicity Enas Guest Columnist

Giving emerging talent a foot up in live theatre is imperative if you want a program to grow, bring innovative ideas to the stage and new audiences to seats.

All too often theatres will overlook an aspiring writer or director in favor of what we call “old chestnuts.” These are plays and directors who are known to the theatre-going community for their content and body of work. While these are the backbone of community theatre, there is a crying need for new works and direction.

So, what does giving an aspiring director a chance to prove their mettle, do for the local theatre scene? It gives theatre-goers, who call East Texas home, an opportunity for new experiences. Through a director’s vision, a play that is familiar can be interpreted in a brand new way by the audience. New faces on the directorial scene often bring with them actors who have never had stage time outside of their higher institutes of learning and introducing new actors to an established audience is always pleasing. These new directors also bring fresh ideas for staging and character development.

I remember when a young Peter Brook was at the helm of The Royal Shakespeare Company in England. He transformed the London theatre scene with his innovative staging of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” For decades, Shakespeare’s plays were always presented with traditional staging, complete with full Elizabethan costumes and heavy sets. Peter Brook gave us a white empty space, barely there costumes and advanced (for the 1970’s) lighting and sound. Theatre-goers, both regular attendees and new, flocked in droves to discover a new experience for themselves. As a result of Brook’s innovation and genius, others have taken the baton and given us great experiential theatre.

In a profession as cutthroat as ours, it is very difficult for a new director to be given a chance, as the “bottom line” is still of overriding importance to many regional theatres. “We won’t make any money,” or “Our patrons wont like this” they’ll say. I say, “Let them have the stage and cut their teeth in our spaces!” Who knows, by giving this opportunity, small theatres may attract a whole new audience, an audience that is seeking something different to experience and that will continue to attend because this step was taken.

We at APEX Theatre20 have the space where these talents are welcomed and encouraged. In this our inaugural year, we have given new directors, Jake Spadie and Frances Whiteside, the opportunity to stage their productions. In fact, Ms. Whiteside’s production of “Loesser and More” continues this weekend!

Last March we hosted the Bottle Alley Theatre Company. This is a young, experimental ensemble from Austin who write, produce and act original pieces written by their founder Chris Fontanes. We are thrilled that they are returning to our stage on August 2 and 3 for the regional premier of “Make-Believe.”

In November we are producing the Emerging Directors Festival. For more details on this exciting opportunity, like us on Facebook at Actors Preparatory Exchange or visit our website,

Without encouragement from seasoned theatres and veteran directors, original works and aspiring directors will not have a chance to enthrall local audiences. Having an open, diverse and energetic theatre scene is vital to fostering future creativity.

Felicity Enas is an instructor at Actors Preparatory Exchange and resident director of Theater 20 @ Potter Place.