Stage & Dance

Largest theater conference in North America returns to Lexington

In this 2010 file photo, Susan Creech as Katherina and Kayla Brown as Bianca rehearse while other members of the cast and crew mark off where platforms will go. Paul Laurence Dunbar High School presented its 1950s version of William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” as part of the 2010 Southeastern Theatre Conference’s high school play festival.
In this 2010 file photo, Susan Creech as Katherina and Kayla Brown as Bianca rehearse while other members of the cast and crew mark off where platforms will go. Paul Laurence Dunbar High School presented its 1950s version of William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” as part of the 2010 Southeastern Theatre Conference’s high school play festival. Staff file photo

The Southeastern Theatre Conference returns to Lexington this week for the first time since 2010, bringing more than 5,000 attendees and lots of performances, workshops and auditions, primarily to the area between Lexington Center and the Lexington Opera House.

The event, commonly referred to as SETC in theater circles, is the largest theater event of its kind in North America and is an annual destination for theater professionals and practitioners. Events begin Wednesday and run through Saturday.

When the 2010 conference came to Lexington, Lexington Center director Bill Owen said it was the largest convention to come to the center in the past decade, and one of the largest ever, ranking with gatherings of the Worldwide Church of God and the Rural Letter Carriers Association. Directors of the conference, which moves around the Southeast, were impressed with Lexington at the time.

Beth Harvey, president of the SETC at the time, said, “This city is phenomenal. The whole downtown center is lovely and accessible, and the hospitality is above and beyond.”

One big change for Lexington-area residents is that several of the event’s festivals — community theater, high school theater and fringe festivals — will be open to the public.

Kentucky will, of course, have participants.

▪  The Community Theatre Festival at the Downtown Arts Center, 141 East Main Street, will include “Cabaret” by Ashland’s Paramount Players at 6:30 p.m. Friday and “Who Am I This Time?” by Theatre Workshop Owensboro at 8 p.m. Friday.

▪  The Kentucky entries in the High School Theatre Festival at the Opera House, 401 West Shirt Street, are “Cagebirds” by Bryan Station High School at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and “Still Waters Run Deep” by Corbin High School at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

The Kentucky entrants advanced from the Kentucky Theatre Association conference in November at the University of Kentucky.

The Fringe Festival will run from midnight Thursday through Saturday morning at the Lexington Children’s Theatre, 418 West Short Street. Read more about it Thursday at LexGo.com or in Friday’s Weekender section of the Herald-Leader.

For conventioneers, centerpieces of the event are keynote speakers Oskar Eustis, artistic director of New York’s Public Theatre (a post held by Frankfort native George C. Wolfe from 1993 to 2004), and actor-musician Alice Ripley, who has just wrapped up filming a new Netflix series, “Girlboss.”

There will also be numerous master classes and workshops, and if you feel some tension emanating from the Lexington Center area, there are college and professional theater auditions where performers have 60 to 90 seconds to make a first impression.

Oh, the drama.

If you go

Southeastern Theatre Conference

What: Largest theater conference in North America featuring performances, speakers, workshops, masterclasses, auditions and more.

When: March 1-4

Where: Lexington Center, 430 W. Vine St., and nearby venues

Online: For detailed information, go to SETC.org.

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