Drive an hour and a half northeast from the commercial Broadway stages of Manhattan and you’ll find another kind of theater: the all volunteer non-profit, community theatre company, The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts (“TBTA”). This sixty-year-old theater group is thriving in its own permanent venue in the picturesque town of Brookfield (population of 16,000), set between two lakes and amid forests and farmlands of western Connecticut. In addition to offering a range of plays, musicals, and improv comedy to eager audiences, they are now launching a special program of new works.
When I learned the community theatre was interested in new works, I made a few suggestions. Knowing that audiences enjoy holiday-themed shows in December each year, they agreed to a plan, as explained on the release about the Battle of the Christmas Musicals: Submissions – Brookfield.
I’m looking forward to seeing who might join us. (I can also help with things like directions and motel suggestions for people coming from out of town.)
Last fall I interviewed the group’s president, Lou Okell (Okell rhymes with local).
Carol de Giere: What kind of talent would you say the theater has attracted?
Lou Okell: It’s a wide range. It tends to be people who are a little bit more serious about pursuing theater in general. We have young people who are starting out, people who are retired, and everything in between as well. It’s a great place for people to explore and try something different, and we build a community where everyone connects with each other.
CD: Would you say there are actors who are eager to be involved in readings?
LO: Oh yes, it’s a wonderful experience. A lot of our actors, especially the ones who are playing at a higher level, have very busy schedules. A reading allows them to do something that’s challenging, that’s new, and that’s fun to do without it taking too much time in their schedule. It’s something they can fit in between other projects, so we can do some pretty interesting things because of that.
CD: Do you think being near the theater experience in New York City influences what your audience is looking for in a show?
LO: Yes, they are looking for quality and they are looking for new experiences. They want to see a wide range of shows: certainly the old standards are good but they want to see something that they are really going to connect with. I think they are a little more sophisticated than your average community theatre audience. They are looking for a special show with a special performance.
In general, we try to attract the Brookfield area community and offer a great value for our ticket prices. We want to encourage people who have never tried this before to come and learn about live theatre, and have a good experience here.
This article has been published in conjunction with Musical Writerzine issue 36.