Friday, June 29, 2007
STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. -- When Missouri-based theater pros Nicole Trueman-Shaw and her husband, Landon Shaw, wanted to start a professional summer theater company in a small Missouri town this year, they had a few choices.
"We shopped the idea around to three different communities: Hermann, Lake of the Ozarks and Ste. Genevieve," Trueman-Shaw said. "We were looking for a place that already had a tourism base."
Ste. Genevieve's wineries, antique shops and French colonial heritage made the couple take notice of the small town, and when they proposed locating their theater company, ColeBeanBay, to city officials and economic leaders, the response was overwhelming.
"When we called the Ste. Genevieve Chamber of Commerce, within a half an hour they had a meeting set up for us. They pretty much said to us, 'This isn't a matter of we want this for our community, we need this for our community.'"
And just like that, Ste. Genevieve landed its first professional summer theater company.
Now about 20 professional actors and crew from outside the area -- anywhere from New York to Los Angeles -- are staying in Ste. Genevieve's Creole House. They've been putting in 12-hour days preparing ColeBeanBay's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," which opened Thursday night. And if this season goes well, the company plans to make Ste. Genevieve its summer home for the foreseeable future.
ColeBeanBay set up shop in the city's junior high about two weeks ago, transforming the space into a theater. Providing a home for the actors and crew and a space for their productions is only a small part of the huge commitment Ste. Genevieve's political, business and private community has pledged to make ColeBeanBay a success.
The costs can't be determined until the run of shows -- every Thursday through Sunday until July 15 -- says Ste. Genevieve Chamber of Commerce president Ron Armbruster. Private individuals and corporations have put up sponsorship money, some of them sponsoring entire shows at the cost of $1,250.
Locals have also volunteered to help the production in a variety of capacities.
"We are now looking to try to see what are the things that can differentiate us from every other small town that has these festivals and a fair and that sorts of thing," Armbruster said. "Not that those things are bad, we just wanted to do something more."
Ste. Genevieve has long sought to attract visitors with its artistic and cultural offerings and its French colonial heritage of being the oldest continuous settlement west of the Mississippi River. The town already attracts visitors with events like its annual Spring Garden Walk, French Heritage Festival and Jour de Fete art festival. The presence of ColeBeanBay just adds to those offerings, Armbruster said.
With ColeBeanBay, Armbruster said Ste. Genevieve is getting a real professional acting company that will provide quality theater, enhancing the experience of summer visitors.
Trueman-Shaw said ticket sales are only 50 percent of the budget with the rest coming from sponsorship.
The Shaws bring a lot of experience with them. Trueman-Shaw started a professional touring company in St. Louis called DramaRama Theatre Company in 2001 and hired Landon, an actor and technician from Chicago who has played Joseph or produced the musical 13 times. The couple married early this year.
ColeBeanBay is a "summer stock" theater, that takes place in a small town and brings in actors and crew from all over the country.
Some of the professionals are local, though. Southeast Missouri State University students Charles Davis, Cody Heuer, Stephen Fister, Trevor Kettlekamp and soon-to-be Southeast theater student from Cape Girardeau Kaitlin Doughey are part of the cast. Local resident Tim DePriest serves as musical director.
Theater students commonly work with professional companies during the summer; at Southeast professional experience is required for their major.
For Heuer, who plays one of Joseph's brothers, this is his first professional acting gig, an opportunity he couldn't ignore.
"When I first heard about it, I was just kind of like, I don't have to work at home any more, I can do something I can enjoy," he said.
With success this year, Trueman-Shaw said the group will return next year with a full season -- the farce "Lend Me a Tenor" by Ken Ludwig, the big-name musical "Chicago" and another production to be chosen by audience members.
335-6611, extension 182