Newly hired Thunder Bay Theatre Artistic Director Kevin Reams has assembled a new and diverse core company that has been working together enthusiastically in preparation for the first show of the fall season.
"We brought in quite a diverse group this time," said Reams, who is doing "Grey Gardens" as his inaugural production as TBT's artistic director. The musical comedy/drama is based on the lives of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and her daughter (Little Edie), who in real life were the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The show opens Sept. 26 and plays for two weeks only.
"They are making my work easy, the part that has to do with directing," Reams said. "These guys are all very, very professional. They came together really quickly. They all pitch in so much and volunteer with many other duties."
On board as both a core company actor and assistant technical director is Pennsylvania native Jeffrey Mindock. A 2012 graduate of DeSales University with a Bachelor of Arts in acting and directing, he has spent the last year and a half consistently performing across the country, including in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois and New York City.
Most recently, Mindock spent the summer with Festival 56 in Princeton, Ill, where he played Reuben in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," Dave in "The Full Monty," Long John Silver in "Treasure Island" and Macbeth in "Macbeth."
After spending the past year performing a variety of roles with Theatre West Virginia, Rocky Cooper joins the TBT company as an actor and musical director. He holds a BA in vocal performance from University of Virginia's College at Wise. Past credits also include featured soloist in "A Wohlfahrt Haus Christmas Spectacular" at Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre in Wytheville, Va., Man 1 in "Songs for a New World" at Johnson City Community Theatre and Jack Hale in "Trail of the Lonesome Pine," the outdoor drama of his hometown, Big Stone Gap, Va.
Reams previously worked with both Mindock and Cooper at Theatre West Virginia, and once he accepted the artistic director post at TBT, he persuaded both actors to join him in Alpena.
"When we worked together before, we shared a lot of ideas and thought processes that are the same artistically and that drew us back together," Mindock said. "We all have to chip in to make these productions what we want them to be. We all take a lot of pride in our work, and the only way is if we buckle down."
Though the actors have been busy preparing for the fall season, they already like what they see of the theatre and the community at large.
"Everyone around here is just genuine," Cooper said. "It is a great group of people. The community also has been very gracious."
Also new to the core company is Chelsea Jenkins of Springfield, Ohio, who hired on as an actress, stage manager and costumer. She recently graduated from Wittenburg University where she earned a BA in theatre. She has stage managed many productions in her home city, including "Arms and the Man" and "The Importance of Being Earnest."
Jenkins is enthused to be part of a professional company. "I just graduated and was really wanting a professional job," she said. "This sounded like an interesting area. It's a nice small town and a place to get my foot in the door."
Actress Amy Groen is excited to continue working at TBT after having performed in "Lucky Stiff" and "Smokey Joe's Cafe" this past summer. She received her BA from Cornerstone University, majoring in theatre with an emphasis in musical theatre.
"I came for the summer, and the board here offered to renew my contract," Groen said.
"She came highly recommended," said Reams, who is pleased she agreed to stay on for another season.
Groen is looking forward to all three shows lined up for the fall season, but particularly the classic musical, "Beauty and the Beast."
"I really like all the shows we are doing, but 'Beauty and the Beast' is something I've wanted to do for years," she said. "All of us are excited about that one."
Returning from many seasons past as both a veteran actress and technical director at TBT is Nickie Hilton. She has worked both on stage and behind the scenes at the theatre since 2006.
Hilton holds a BA in theatre from Arkansas Tech University. She has worked professionally at Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre for five seasons, and has done three national tours with the Springer Opera House and Capstone Theatricals.
Some of Hilton's favorite roles at TBT are Joanne in "Rent," Dr. Frank-N-Furter in "The Rocky Horror Show," Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl," Lucy in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," and The Balladeer in "Assassins."
"I like this place a lot," Hilton said of her longevity at TBT. "The town too, of course. I've met a lot of great people here, made a lot of lifelong friends."
Like the rest of the current company, she hopes to elevate the quality of shows staged at TBT.
"We want to strive to put on good quality shows," Hilton said.
Reams and his core company hope the community comes out in support of TBT's fall season. To make reservations for "Grey Gardens," call the box office at 354-2267.