Be Theatre, a local theatre company, is planning to host the first musical theatre production in the new performing arts center.
“That’s not a firm deal; that’s kind of a gentleman’s handshake between us and [the performing arts coalition] right now,” said Elena Kent, Be Theatre founder. “So, until they get someone in there [who] we can talk to when we talk about how that’s going to happen, we’re not really sure of the details. But the thing that I love about San Angelo is that everybody wants to make that work. The people on the board want to make that work, and we want to make that work. I feel really confident in them and us that we’re going to be able to perform there in the spring.”
Be Theatre is expecting to perform Gypsy at the center in late April or early May. The nonprofit theatre company is currently in the process of hiring an executive director for the musical.
“It makes sense to go to where there’s an open space; that is what [the performing arts center] was built for,” Kent said. “So that’s why it was our first choice. There’s not a lot of performing choices in San Angelo, which is the whole reason it was built. We’re excited to take that on.”
Gypsy will probably have between 25 and 30 actors in the show. It will be the biggest musical theater production that Be Theatre has taken on since its partnership with Angelo Civic Theatre two years ago for Grease.
The company will be utilizing the Performing Arts Center’s 300 seat theater. Kent also said that Be Theatre was not planning on performing in City Hall auditorium’s larger space any time soon.
“No, I don’t see us using that stage unless we partnered with other theatres for a bigger project,” Kent said. “We love the intimacy of 60 seats, [and] 300 is big for us, but to go over 300 isn’t the vision that we have at Be Theatre.”
San Angelo LIVE! asked Kent if Be Theatre has any further plans for the performing arts center.
“There’s nothing firm for us, but I know they’ve got a black box space,” Kent said. “We hope to maybe utilize that one of these days. There’s some great conference areas and performance spaces, so who knows?”
Kent made it clear that Be Theatre’s headquarters would remain in the studio in which the company is currently housed.
“We’re definitely staying downtown in our little space,” Kent said. “We’re not moving into the Performing Arts Center. People have asked that question so I think that’s a good thing to cover.”
However, Kent said that Be Theatre’s goal is to “do something over at the performing arts center that helps us become a part of that overall vision” at least once a year.
The renovated Coca Cola warehouse is planned to open to several performance groups in August. For more about the Performing Arts Center and the City Hall auditorium, check out San Angelo LIVE’s previous article about renovated buildings in San Angelo.
San Angelo Gives
Be Theatre is one of many nonprofits to participate in San Angelo Gives, a fundraising initiative held in May.
“San Angelo Gives breathed life, financially, into Be Theatre,” Kent said. “Because we’re small, we don’t have that many seats. We cannot survive on ticket sales alone. We have to have donations. So what a great day on a day when everybody in San Angelo is asking for money and so many people were being generous.”
Kent added, “It wasn’t like we were about to close our doors.” However, the summer is a hard time of year for the company. Be Theatre performs two free productions, Literature Alive and Shakespeare in the Park, back-to-back in the late summer and early spring.
“I’m not someone who personally likes to go out and ask people for money,” Kent said. “San Angelo Gives helped us have a comfortable summer, and not have to worry [or] beg for money. It helped us to take a deep breath [and] put some money aside for youth programming.
Be Theatre has been a 501C3 for a little over a year.
“It’s been great because we have been able to think about our fall and youth programming and not feel confined to ‘what’s the least amount of money we can spend?’” Kent said. “Instead, we’re like ‘what opportunities can we provide?’ and get back with the board on how we can best put those funds to use.”
Kent mentioned several financial issues that the company no longer has to worry about in the near future. These include helping to put kids in the programs and licensing shows.
“[This] was probably the biggest thing financially to happen to us this year and put us in a good place to not feel restricted. To have San Angelo Gives means we get to say yes to a lot more. It’s huge deal.”
For more about San Angelo Gives, take a look at San Angelo LIVE’s report on the fundraiser.
Junie B. Jones: Literature Alive
Be Theatre also hosted its Literature Alive project this April. The company held public performances of “Junie B. Jones, the Musical” at the library, as well as a sensory-friendly performance for kids with sensory processing disorders.
"I think in performances like that, the special needs kids get a lot out of it, but the actors do too,” Kent said. “We just made a safe space; we didn’t have special lights. We left the fluorescent lights full up, but we still did the play mostly how we preformed it. We just modified it a little bit, and allowed the kids to roll around on the floor and talk to the actors; we’ll do that again.”
In order to plan this special event, founder of Autism Alliance of the Concho Valley Shanna Payne approached the theatre company. Her proposition for the sensory-friendly showing was the first of what became AACV’s ThAUTful Theater program. The showing was held in Be Theatre’s own studio. Furthermore, Caity Roberts, who works with Be Theatre, has also been holding special education classes this summer for free.
“[Junie B. Jones] opens some doors for us that I hope will grow,” Kent said. “I hope that’s something that we can grant write for in the future. [We want to] keep doing that kind of thing because it was really fun."
Be Theatre is offering a wide variety of shows to San Angelo throughout the year.
The Complete History of America is going to be performed by the company August 5-21. The abridged comedy will cover the entirety of American history in 90 minutes. This show is part of the show’s Mustache Melodrama series, so popcorn throwing from the audience is “encouraged and required.”
In the next several months, Be Theatre will also be performing 2 and 5: The Music of Kander and Ebb from September 23-October 9, 2016, Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells from December 2-11, 2016, The Diary of Anne Frank from January 20-February 5, 2017, and Gypsy from April 28-May 7, 2017.
“We’re excited,” Kent said. “San Angelo has a vibrant theatre community. We all work together. We’re excited about the future of that performing arts center and the opportunities, yet [we’re] still maintaining our own little niches and what we fill.”