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Phoenix Theatre Presents Titanic – One Night Only

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Tonight, The Phoenix Theatre for Children will be presenting Titanic: A Concert Version of the Musical for one night only at the Lincoln Theatre with live accompaniment provided by ProMusica.

Phoenix Artistic Director Steven C. Anderson has adapted this version of the musical and has recruited over three dozen local performers to donate their time and energy to help raise funds for Phoenix’s “at risk” program with Columbus City Schools.

We sat down recently with Steven along with Joe Bishara, Production Coordinator for The Phoenix to discuss tonight’s event.

Walker Evans: Running a theatre company with productions aimed for children probably leaves people to assume that the work produced might not be appealing for adults. Is that a perception that you’ve had to work to overcome?

Steven C. Anderson: I’ve never been interested in theatre for children that pandered or talked down to anyone. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a child laugh… you can make a funny face or fall down… so that type of production doesn’t seem like much of a challenge. We want to present pieces that will illuminate the essential questions of “Who am I? What am I here for? What is my place in the world?”

Joe Bishara: One of the interesting things about Phoenix is that it’s not just a work produced on stage for the general public. I think the true heart and soul of the company is what’s done in the schools, and that’s the main reason why we’re doing this concert version of Titanic. It’s a benefit to support our work with the at risk programs in Columbus City Schools.

SA: That community involvement and educational involvement is sort of like the iceberg in Titanic… it’s the larger “under the surface” work that we do.

WE: Tell us more about some of those type of school programs.

SA: Five years ago we began creating a curriculum that used drama theatre to teach other core subject matter. When the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) movement began to take root here, educators began focusing intensive education on those core subjects. Very quickly, we’ve realized that intensive study doesn’t create individual mastery because it provides text, but no context. Drama and the other artforms can create context for learning. So we’ve begun a process of infusing the arts as a delivery system for those other subjects and have had some success with that.

WE: Additionally, Phoenix is now helping to provide programming at the Davis Performing Arts Center that was closed last year and later reopened, correct?

JB: Yes, our new affiliation Columbus Recreation & Parks allows us a new opportunity to help fill the gap where a lot of arts education is being cut out from schools. We’re offering year-round classes for children there, and just about to begin rehearsals for a kids-only production of Honk Jr. We’re also trying to serve the community in new ways by allowing the Performing Arts Center space to be available for rental for many other smaller theater and arts organizations that don’t really have a home yet. On the Verge Productions is in our larger theater right now. Available Light was in our smaller theater last weekend. Senior Repertory of Ohio is there, Six String Concerts, the Thurber House is doing author readings there… so we’re really trying to have porous walls in the arts community. It’s not just about serving The Phoenix or CATCO patrons, but about helping to serve a larger community.

SA: The 21st century offers all kinds of opportunities for people to create their own art. 30 years ago, if you wanted to be a filmmaker, you needed a large amount of backing, you need a studio to distribute… but now people have video capabilities, editing capabilities on the computers, and worldwide distribution through YouTube. Song writers can record music on the computer and find distribution online without a record label… so there’s been an insurgence of artistic activity and people claiming artistic expression for themselves that frankly short circuits the old notion of arts & culture institutions. The question now is how can we create arts institutions that supports that, refuels that, and provides a forum for that as well? Do I have the answers to those questions? No I don’t… but I feel really good about working to address those questions. Change is a natural part of who we are. If we don’t change we die. So how can we form a new institution that still serves certain people in a way that they have been served before, but also finds new ways to serve and connect with new folks.

WE: Going back to tonight’s production of Titanic… can you tell us a bit more about how it came about and what attendees can expect?

JB: Yes, we are producing a concert version of the musical Titanic at the Lincoln Theatre and 36 local actors are donating their time free of charge to produce this show. ProMusica is providing the musicians and all of the benefits go toward our at-risk program that we mentioned earlier. It’s also being done as a kick-off for our new affiliation with COSI and their new Titanic exhibit. We’re providing actors for the exhibit.

SA: When we first started talking to COSI about providing actors, I started thinking about Titanic and pulled it off my bookshelf from the spot labeled “Musicals I love but we’ll never be able to pull off because they’re too expensive” and listened to it again. It has such a big, lush sound that I thought it would sustain a concert version. So that’s part of the model for our new merged company with CATCO. Maybe we can’t produce a huge musical, but a concert version could be something that people enjoy. We’ve seen this done at the Kennedy Center in DC and the Lincoln Center in NYC, and we think it’s something that people in Columbus can really get behind.

JB: I also think it’s a new way to say ‘please support us’ but also offer some great entertainment at the same time. We’re hoping that it’s something that people will not only feel good about supporting, but also enjoy a type of event that isn’t normally done very often, particularly in Columbus. I can’t remember the last time a concert version of a musical was done.

Tickets for the event are $50 and can be purchased at the Ohio Theatre Ticket Office or by phone at (614) 469-0939. The event takes place tonight, Saturday March 27th at 8pm at the Lincoln Theatre, located at 769 E. Long Street. More information can be found online at www.phoenix4kids.org.

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