After a year and a half of financial and staffing woes that threatened the future of the organization, Actors Guild of Lexington's new leader says he aims to launch a new era in the 27-year-old theater's storied history with a new space and new season.
"We're still standing," artistic director Eric Seale says, using a phrase he and his volunteer staff jokingly refer to as the theater's motto for the year.
Seale, the only full-time Actors Guild staffer who did not leave the organization after the troupe lost significant funding from LexArts in June 2009, was appointed artistic director by the theater's board of directors in August.
Seale already had been working to keep the theater afloat — last year's truncated season included two shows, The SantaLand Diaries and Tommy: The Concert — but the lack of a committed theater space and limited funding made a comeback difficult. With the support of an all-volunteer staff and an overhauled board of directors, Seale says, he spent much of the past year hunting for space.
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In October, Seale found what he says he was looking for: a 3,000-square-foot space in South Elkhorn Village on Harrodsburg Road that could accommodate a full season of shows without breaking the bank.
Late last month, with a venue secured, AGL announced its first full season of programming since the 2008-09 cycle.
The 27th season will begin in January with Dead Man's Cell Phone, a black comedy by playwright Sarah Ruhl. It will be followed by February's production of David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Glengarry Glen Ross. The third play of the season, slated for April, will be a musical, A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant by rock musician Kyle Jarrow. In late May, the focus turns local, with an original, locally written play, Belle Brezing by Margaret C. Price, about the legendary Lexington madam.
The final show of the season will be announced later, a conscious decision that Seale says he made to return to a former Actors Guild practice.
"It gives us the freedom to select new work that maybe wasn't available earlier in the season, or to respond to a timely event or issue in the community with relevant programming," he said.
Seale is careful to describe Actors Guild's new ventures as less of a comeback than a push for a new era. "All organizations evolve, and the key for us is to be flexible in how we do it," Seale says.
"I'm not going to always get it right; it's my first season, and I'm willing to learn and adapt," he says.
"We've been through a trying, difficult time," Seale says. "We've weathered that storm though and we're going continue to weather it, but while we do that, we need to be producing content not just that people want to see, but that people need to see."