CLARKSTON — After a year in existence, the region’s newest nonprofit theater company has made a dream come true in time for the holidays by finding a home.Abuzz Theatre Company recently moved into a downtown Clarkston storefront at 909 Sixth St. The building is owned by JPI Worldwide, which previously ran a television station there.
“Theater is about fantasy, about creating a dream world. In real life to make this happen you have to follow those fantasies,” says founding director Torok Lewis, who signed a three-year lease on the building with an option to buy. “We could not do this without the landlord’s help to get us started. They believe in our vision for the community.”
At street level, the 2,500-square-foot space will include a box office that takes advantage of free public parking behind the building and backstage rooms for patron events. The stage area, with seating for around 50 at the front of the building, uses the lighting system installed for the TV station. Another 2,500 square feet in the basement will be used for dressing rooms, storage and workshops.
Lewis founded the theater last year with the idea of creating a professional and contemporary performing arts group aimed at younger audiences. “Twisted Dickens,” a humorous take on “A Christmas Carol” opening Friday, Dec. 12, is the first show in the new space (see below). A preview of the theater’s 2015 season includes, “A Night of Naughty,” a burlesque show with dancers, cabaret and stand-up comics in February; “A Night of Divas” fundraiser with professional female singers opening March 27; the April play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead;” a local playwright’s project in May; and an “American Oldies” musical revue in late July.
Community participation is key to Abuzz Theatre’s success, Lewis says.
“We want to do these shows but we also want to do theater the community wants to see.”
That is why Abuzz wants people to vote for a play and musical to be performed in 2015. Choices for the Sept. 25-Oct. 11 play are “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Night of the Living Dead,” and “The Woman in Black.” For the holiday production, Nov. 27-Dec. 20, choices are “Annie,” “Shrek the Musical,” and “A Christmas Story.” People can vote at the theater’s website, www.abuzztheatre.com.
“The response has been amazing so far,” Lewis says of voting.
Workshops for adults and youth in makeup, acting, script writing and song writing are planned, along with collaborations with arts organizations like the Fourth Wall Art Studio and Gallery in Lewiston. Artists will create work inspired by Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft and Maurice Sendak to be displayed at events with actors reading the writers’ work. Seuss, geared toward families, will be staged Jan. 17-18.
The theater has a five-member board of directors and numerous volunteers behind the scenes, says Lewis, who works as a caregiver in Clarkston and turns 45 on Dec. 16. “It is a whole collaboration of theater-loving people making this happen. I sure couldn’t do it on my own.”
After a year of renting temporary spaces for productions, Lewis decided it would be more cost-effective to lease a building. In founding the theater and paying its lease, he says he draws inspiration from the memory of his father losing his job when Lewis was a teen. His dad went on to start his own business.
“You just do when you want something,” Lewis says, tearing up.
With 25 years working on and off stage in various productions, including a brief stint in 2012 as director of the Lewiston Civic Theatre, Lewis is a strong believer in collaboration and that more arts opportunities don’t take away from other organizations but only strengthen the community.
“Everybody has a talent, whether they think they do or not,” he says. “It’s nice to have a facility and organization to foster that.”
……….Extracting humor from the tale of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Abuzz Theatre opens the original production “Twisted Dickens: A Christmas Carol,” Friday, Dec. 12, at its new location, 909 Sixth St., Clarkston.
The show captures the magic and integrity of Dickens’ classic, but it infuses slapstick comedy and audience participation into what is, overall, a depressing story, says Torok Lewis, who directs and adapted the play with the help of Michelle Adamson Brandt of Lewiston. The play is rated PG-13 because of adult content and some language. Shows are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13, and Dec. 19-20; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14 and 21. Tickets are $12.50 and can be purchased online at www.abuzztheatre.com and at the door, if still available.