Residents of Wilson County who love live theater used to have to make the trek to downtown Nashville or – heaven forbid – all the way to Bellevue, to see productions staged by the Circle Players, Darkhorse Theater, Chaffin’s Barn, or any of the other metro theater options. But that all changed when the Encore Theatre Company was established in Wilson County in 2006, as a part of the West Wilson Arts Alliance. The group staged their performances at a variety of locations, including Friendship Christian School, Mt. Juliet Middle School, and Our Place Restaurant on Mt. Juliet Road before settling into their new permanent location at 6978 Lebanon Road.
“We are running a business made up of volunteers; we have no employees, and all who work with us do it for the love of theater,” says Board member Mary Gingold. “These are the people who work behind the scenes, taking care of the business. These are the people who build sets, make costumes, direct and produce shows; these are the actors on stage and the theater professionals who facilitate labs. We would not be in existence without volunteers, and we can never have too many,” she says.
Don Breedwell, the Encore Theatre Company Board secretary, who also directs many of the company’s performances, recently tabulated the number of man-hours it takes to put on a play like the company’s recent performance of the stage classic Arsenic and Old Lace. There were 14 performers and 6 production staff involved in Arsenic, which took place over 35 days of pre-production for the 8 performances. “That equated to 52 hours for set construction; 756 hours of rehearsal time and 560 hours of performance time,” Breedwell says.
On average, it costs between $1,200 and $1,500 to put on a non-musical, according to Gingold. “Those are real costs that we have to cover before we have sold the first ticket. Add the operating costs (including rent and utilities) and you are looking at roughly $3,000 per show,” she says. Musicals cost about $1,000 more because of the song royalties, she adds.
The Encore Theatre Company Board solicits production ideas from directors and welcomes original works as well, Gingold says. “We compile a list of shows we think will have a wide appeal and have formed ‘play reading committees’ in the past to read shows and present the top choices to the board. The play reading committee is made up primarily of technical/ creative folks, actors, directors, etc., … who can look into a show and determine if it will ‘fit’ on our stage, and the effort it will take to produce a show,” she says. In the early days,
Encore did about five productions per year, but in 2013 has nine scheduled. One of the things that Breedwell stressed was the Company’s effort to get more racial diversity in their performances, as they did with Arsenic. “We are a community theater and one of our responsibilities is to reach out to all areas of the community and provide entertainment to everybody,” he says. “We hope to see more people of color and different ethnicities become part of our theater family by auditioning for a part on stage, or helping behind the scenes.”
The typical cast at Encore runs the gamut from seasoned professionals who have a great deal of professional stage, film, and TV experience, to stay-at-home moms, teachers, engineers, accountants, and other professionals
go Encore Theatre Company is currently staging The Murder Room (June 6-22), and the 2013 season rounds out with Red, White and Tuna in July, Lend Me a Tenor (October 11-26), Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution (August 30-September 14), Woman in Black (November 1-9), and Comfort and Joy (November 29-December 14).