Paul Zindel's Ladies at the Alamo is the latest step in Studio Players' effort to establish itself as something of an artists' haven, where directors present shows they want to direct and get substantial support creating them.
”The board decided two years ago to have directors propose plays they want to do, figuring they'll be excited about doing these shows and they'll go out and get the best casts they can to do them,“ says Pamela Perlman, a longtime actor and board member at Studio who plays a theater board president in Ladies.
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The result has been some great plays and a new life for Studio Players.
”These are some of the best actors in town,“ she says, referring to Ladies co-stars Rachel Rogers and Missy Johnston, who haven't been on the Studio stage in 10 years or more, and Tara Adkins, who's making her Studio debut. ”They can go to other theaters and get paid.“
You also can point to actors such as Laurie Genet, who made her return to Lexington stages in January's production of Catfish Moon, and Adam Luckey, who led last summer's production of Working. And the directors' roster has included people like Tim X. Davis and Eric Ryan Seale, who have built strong reputations on stage and in the director's chair.
”It's the biggest game in town for directors,“ says Johnston.
Studio builds its seasons by asking directors to submit up to three plays and come pitch them to the board. Then the board selects from that field, still trying to find a balance of genres and moods for a multifaceted season.
”It makes me want to direct, and I hate directing,“ Johnston says.
Director Tonda-Leah Fields says she chose Ladies at the Alamo, about a power struggle in a Texas theater, because of its humor and its five strong roles for women.
”We've had fun,“ Fields says. ”Nobody's getting rich in Lexington doing theater. So if you're not having a good time, why do it? You can go work at Starbucks and make more money.“
Some theaters in town, such as Actors Guild of Lexington and the Lexington Children's Theatre, pay their actors. And that is attractive, local performers say. But so is the prospect of taking on a really juicy role for a profoundly engaged director.
Studio board president Bob Singleton, who will direct the season finale All the Great Books (abridged), says the theater also has worked to make Studio more attractive to directors by establishing house lighting and scenic designers and improving the theater's technical infrastructure.
”They have excellent designers, better than anywhere else in town,“ says Rogers.
Singleton says providing the technical support ”takes a load off the director, so they don't have to go out and find it themselves, and they can concentrate on directing the play.“
He is currently acting in Actors Guild of Lexington's production of Arcadia and says it's important to have a theatrical community moving between theaters.
”We want to expand our reach and bring people in,“ Singleton says of Studio. ”People like to come to shows and see familiar faces as well as new talent.“
Right now, the theater seems to have a formula to make that happen.