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Actors' Summit Theater Prides Itself on Using Local Talent

Theater gives talent a reason to come back

(Cleveland, Ohio) December 28, 2006 -  Actors’ Summit Theater, a small professional theater in Hudson, works under a developmental agreement with Actors’ Equity so that it can provide opportunities for professional actors in the Northeastern Ohio community.  While other theaters may use talent from New York, Chicago or LA, Actors’ Summit is committed by their mission statement (“to present professional theater created by Ohio artists for the entertainment and enrichment of our diverse community”) to pull from the talent pool in its own backyard.    

“We are the only theater to make that declaration part of the mission,” artistic director Neil Thackaberry states.  “We believe that we can produce first-rate theater using artists that have chosen to make Ohio their home.  As a result, we have a cadre of people that work with us.  Actors produce elements of intimacy on stage that may not be produced from people who just met at the first rehearsal.  We’ve made a promise not to search elsewhere for talent. Art is local.  When you use outside talent it doesn’t build much of a community.”

Perhaps one of the most important elements of this group is the sense of family that has developed over the years.  Actors can grow with the theater family as their own families grow—literally.  Sally Groth had both of her children while employed by Actors’ Summit.  Between the health care coverage provided by the theater (offered since 1999) and her husband’s insurance, all of her hospital bills and fees were covered.  Her children have grown up in the theater, which provides a playpen, a stroller and a family friendly environment.

Though others may be looking at developing their talents to carry them outside of our region, Actors’ Summit gives talent a reason to stay or come back to play.  “We offer more contracts then anyone else and exclusively to those with an Ohio connection and look to broaden the circle,” says Thackaberry.  Building a company through the community keeps the soul of the art local.  According to co-artistic director MaryJo Alexander, keeping the talent local also feeds money back into the region through taxes and spending.

Mary Jo Alexander (left) with Dana Hart and Tricia Bestic
Photo courtesy: Actors' Summit Theater

Alexander was one of three actors whom recently performed in A Christmas Survival Guide which played on the Actors’ Summit stage earlier this month. Alexander worked with fellow actors Tricia Bestic and Dana Hart to deal with a few of the more interesting aspects of the holiday season from the negative to the sublime.  As the title might indicate, the production revolves around a self-help book which promises “the best Christmas ever.”  Covering the gambit of musical styles from the 1940’s to pop, rock and traditional, the production took “a meaningful and poignant look at the season” says the co-artistic director and actress.

With three actors on stage and three multi-talented musicians (John Krol, Norm Maneri and Marge Ruther Ford) providing musical support, the production took  the audience through a non-stop, fast paced holiday romp which included a parody of the 12 steps program, a bad Santa, audience participation and Elvis.  Alexander explains that the show “was definitely not your Nutcracker; definitely not your Scrooge; Scrooge wasn't here.  We showed that the idyllic Christmas is unreachable-yet the real Christmas is something in between.”  

For more information on other upcoming shows playing at the Actors’ Summit Theater, visit www.actorsummit.org.

Pamela Lewis is a member of artistschair.com and a freelance writer. She can be reached at pamelajl01@yahoo.com

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