Axiom Repertory Theatre
● By Claudia Mosby
For Art's Sake
By Claudia Mosby
Photos: Khari Cowell
Madness and genius. Relationships and identity. Axiom Repertory Theatre (ART), a relative newcomer to the Shasta County stage, has it all and a penchant for producing plays mature and sometimes gritty in subject matter.
“In a general sense, we want to do works that challenge us as artists,” says Ken Hill, ART’s artistic director and CEO. “We’re not limiting ourselves in terms of genres or time periods. We’ll do classical and contemporary productions, including works that may not otherwise be produced in the Redding-Anderson area.”
Inspired by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Hill and Executive Director Nancy Dutton, both educators and veterans of the music and theatre scenes, created this roving company in January to “create art for art’s sake.”
“We don’t want to sacrifice creativity for financing,” says Dutton. “It’s part of the reason we’re waiting on securing a permanent location. We don’t want to become a slave to the overhead.”
This same independence guides production choices. “Some local theatre plays it safe due to philosophy, academic or financial restrictions. As a board, we decide what we want to produce. It doesn’t mean we won’t do a G-rated production, but we want to look at plays that haven’t been done in the North State due to some of these constraints.”
Dutton and Hill have established mutually supportive relationships with the existing companies in town and Dutton says, “There is a lot of cross-pollination,” including ART’s partnership with several local high school drama departments.
As educators, their take on community theatre is unique for this region. “We have young people in the shows we’ve done so far for whom college in musical theatre and then Broadway are the goal,” says Dutton.
“We want to use—and develop—local talent rather than relying on equity (traveling) actors,” adds Hill. “We will be offering craft workshops this autumn so we can train actors how to be actors, singers how to be singers, and dancers how to be dancers.”
Practicality, as well as altruism, drives this goal. While directing “Cabaret”, Hill discovered that singing and dancing were new experiences for some of his actors. Beginning with small group acting workshops, ART will extend into the singing and dancing components.
Off to a banner start with its spring and summer productions of “Waiting for Godot” and “Cabaret,” the ART 2016-17 full season opens in October, with a tentative first production of “Rent,” followed by four more productions that include “God of Carnage” and “Marvin’s Room.”
“We’re in rights negotiations for two of the productions currently,” says Dutton. “We have some very exciting and interesting plays coming our way in the next couple of years.”
Tickets range from $10-$20 and during the “Cabaret” run this summer, the third-tier ticket included a drink and dessert in a cabaret-like setting. Corporate sponsors are seeking them out and Dutton describes a “snowball” effect of community interest and support.
“We want to be a nationally recognized, Tony Award-winning company one day,” says Dutton, who also directs South Shasta County Youth Art and South Shasta County Children’s Chorus.
For now, she and Hill are content to roam between venues. “Theatre is theatre, wherever you do it,” he says. “It can be produced inside or outside, in a warehouse or a barn.”
Stay tuned. The next production may just be coming to a barn near you.