Even though I have never performed, I’ve always loved theater. I like to think of myself as a patron of the arts more than anything. I understand the importance of an audience: performers are at their best in front of an audience that appreciates them, and programs can continue when there is an audience to support them.
My job at the State Theatre is to give the artists an audience to entertain, to teach, to share in the kinetic energy. Theater is one of the last remaining gathering places of fellowship. The world is controlled by gadgets that have made life more solitary. But theater? Theater you share with somebody—sometimes many bodies.
I was fortunate enough to be at the State Theatre for the inception of the FREDDY Awards in 2003, a program that recognizes and rewards outstanding achievement in local high school musical theater. From the beginning, in addition to marketing the program to the community, I have produced the television broadcast of the FREDDY Awards alongside creator and executive producer Shelley Brown. One of the goals has always been to help fill the schools’ auditoriums for their performances.
But it wasn’t until this past season, ten years later, that I truly understood the impact this program has had on the community and on me. For the first time, I went to see all of the high school musicals participating in the FREDDY Awards—29 performances in 3 months—and I loved it!
It felt good to support the schools in a different way—by being a patron of their art. I went through every emotion this FREDDY season, and all these emotions were evoked by the work the students were doing on stage. With a great sense of pride in their dedication and achievement, I felt an automatic reaction to stand and clap during every curtain call.
When it came time for rehearsals to start for the opening number of the FREDDY ceremony, I would recognize the kids by their characters. Hey, there’s Tracy Turnblad. You played P. T. Barnum, didn’t you? To student after student I’d say, “I saw you on stage,” and they’d all light up.
Having this experience has reminded me that I truly do love being a patron of theater. Even though it’s my job on a daily basis to encourage others to share in that experience, it is also part of who I am. Live performances continue to inspire me at the State Theatre, which I like to call my second home, and at every theater I attend. They can be in high school gyms; outside under trees; in new, modern venues; or in old, historic vaudeville houses. It’s all theater.
I am a patron of the arts at heart…and I love theater.