"A Gift-Bear for the King"
Presented by Actors for Children's Theatre
WHEN: 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Alban Arts Center, 65 Olde Main St., St. Albans
INFO: 304-721-8896 or www.albanartscenter.com
By Bill Lynch
On Saturday, the Alban Arts Center welcomes “A Gift-Bear For The King,” an interactive children's show about a talented bear who is sent as a gift for a king, travels far, makes friends and has some adventures along the way.
The center’s thriving drama program won’t be presenting it, though. Instead, it's the first show this year the Alban is bringing in from outside of the area.
Adam Bryan, the Alban’s director and manager, said attracting outside theater and arts companies has always been part of his vision for the theater.
"Well, first and foremost, we're a venue, and we try to offer ourselves up to other artists and artistic organizations," he said. "We've always rented out the space to people, but now we've gained some recognition and respect for our theater, and we've been able to attract some other groups to us."
For the Alban, that means more money flowing in, but Bryan said it's much more than that.
"It just gives people more opportunity to see some really great shows," he said.
Bryan said when he began planning the Alban's calendar months ago, he envisioned an alternating schedule.
"I wanted 12 productions over the year," he said. "In my mind, I saw us doing six productions on our own and then bringing somebody else in every other month."
It hasn't worked out that way.
"So far, it's looking like we'll have at least 13 productions," he said. "We're still working on scheduling, but it's not as even as I would have liked. Sometimes we have two or three different shows in the same month."
He’s not complaining, tahough.
Some of these outside shows are local groups like Leah Turley's Appalachian Arts Collective or the Children's Theatre of Charleston — groups and people Bryan has worked with previously. Saturday's performances are being put on by Actors for Children's Theatre, a group from Flatwoods, Kentucky.
"A Gift-Bear for the King," which is based on Carl Memling’s book and is recommended for children in pre-school through fourth grade, fits with some of the children's theater productions the Alban has done in the past. However, Bryan said it's not the only type of theater the Alban is getting calls about.
"I like to think we're open for just about anything," he said, then added, "As long as it fits in with our mission as a community theater. We don't want to bring in anything that's going to scare people off."
Even though children's theater isn't the only kind of out-of-area production that's drawing interest, it does seem like it's in the majority.
"But that's just because there's more children's theater stuff on tour right now," Bryan said.
The Alban would like to attract more outside productions, but Bryan said that depends on whether fans of local, live theater are willing to get involved and buy tickets.
"You just have to support stuff you don't know," he said.
Some, Bryan said, might be reluctant to give a visiting theater group a try because they don't know anybody in the cast, aren't familiar with the company or feel like they need to stick with only local performers.
The Alban is just trying to offer more, and the payoff for supporting outside performances is that it encourages other groups to take a chance on making The Alban a stop on their tour.
The bottom line, Bryan said, is "we're just trying to bring in some quality productions."
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.