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Friday, Aug. 16, 2013

Expect more collaboration in wake of successful joint production of ‘Hairspray’

Special to The Star

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The first joint play production between the Jewish Community Center and The Theatre in the Park this summer reduced costs and combined talent so well that organizers say another collaboration is likely.

“Probably within a year or two,” said Tim Bair, producing artistic director of The Theatre in the Park. “By sharing production expenses each theater saved about $7,500 with ‘Hairspray.’”

“Tim and I are already talking about ways to expand and continue the partnership,” said Krista Blackwood, director of cultural arts at the Jewish Community Center.

The theaters shared the expense of sets, costumes and props and used the same cast and director in producing “Hairspray” at the Jewish Community Center July 13-28 and The Theatre in the Park Aug. 2-10. Each theater kept its own gate receipts.

“From my perspective, it was a joy to work with such a large, vibrant and talented cast. The collaboration with the Theatre in the Park allowed us to access more potential actors than normally audition at the JCC, which allowed us to expand our talent pool and our audiences,” Blackwood said.

“We also had access to TTIP’s tech crews, particularly carpenters and painters, which enabled us to create a more intricate set than we can usually create,” she added.

The eight performances of “Hairspray” at JCC drew about 2,900 patrons, Blackwood said. The Theatre in the Park, which can seat more people, drew 6,923 over five performances. One show was rained out.

“Theater is a tough business at best. Sharing costs with another theater helps everyone,” Bair said. “How soon we collaborate again will depend on season schedules and what shows are suitable for co-production. This was certainly a step in that direction.”

Bair said he expects The Theatre in the Park to produce five shows again next year.

“Many of our patrons have said they like the five-show format rather than four as we’ve had in the past. They like having a final show in August, closer to the time school starts,” Bair said.

The Theatre in the Park drew 28,123 patrons for the 2013 season. “Peter Pan” was the top draw with 10,305, followed by “Hairspray” with 6,923, “9 to 5” with 3,931, “Children of Eden” 3,519 and “Damn Yankees” 3,445. Last year five shows drew 25,774, with “Legally Blonde” as the season’s top draw.

“Usually it’s hot weather that holds down our audiences. This year we had six rainouts. Every show had at least one rainout except ‘Peter Pan’” Bair said.

The Theatre’s first film venture with its Movies Under the Stars program turned out well, Bair said.

“We call it sit-ins instead of drive-ins. It was another way for people to enjoy outdoor theater. Our hope is it encourages them to come back for a stage production,” Bair said. “I’ve heard many positive comments about the movies. I think we’ll do it again.”

“Finding Nemo,” a late substitute for “The Lion King,” was the most popular movie, drawing 609 patrons. “Mary Poppins” drew 398, “Singin’ in the Rain” 265, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” 259 and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” 240.

Still remaining are “Jurassic Park” tonight, A “Lord of the Rings” triple feature next Saturday and a James Bond double feature of “Goldfinger” and “The Spy Who Loved Me” on Aug. 31.

SureWest and Capitol Federal joined with The Theatre in the Park to sponsor the movies.

Showtime is 8:30 p.m. and admission is $1 at the gate. Patrons may bring their own refreshments or purchase them at the concession stand.

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