Hello and welcome to Inspire.
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We're exploring the vibrant local theatre scene, speaking with women, making moves both onstage and backstage behind the scenes.
We're taking you out for a night at the theatre.
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♪ Inspire is sponsored by Kansas Furniture Mart, using furniture to inspire conversation.
And by the Blanche Bryden Foundation.
The friends of KTWU, honored to support programs and services that enrich the lives of our viewers.
And the Raymond C and Marguerite Gibson Foundation.
Hello, welcome to Inspire.
I'm excited to be here with my terrific co-host, Danielle Norwood, Amber Dickinson.
And thank you for being there.
It's a powerful art form that brings people together and has the ability to tell stories that touch our hearts and challenge our minds.
We're lucky to have such a thriving theatre scene here with a wealth of opportunities for both audiences and performers.
On today's show, we'll be discussing those opportunities and how you can get involved in the world of theatre.
Joining us today are Cassie Hermes, education director and Chelle Decker, resident costume designer and actor with the Topeka Civic Theatre.
Welcome to Inspire ladies.
We are so happy to have you here.
And I feel like this is old home week cuz I've known you all for years.
So let's talk about how you got started with the theatre and then also about the education component with the theatre because not many people know about that.
Well, I got started, I did theatre in high school and then went on to graduate with a degree in theatre.
But I was always interested in teaching kids about theatre.
And I actually was a summer camp counselor at Topeka Civic Theatre for three summers.
And then I kind of just kept coming back and moved up to Education Director so, so what was that like?
Cuz I did youth ministry and I know working with the kids sometimes is a challenge.
Talk about that.
Generally I love working with kids.
Their problems are most of the time easy to solve and it's really important for me to know that there's somebody with their kids that can really help them grow and help them be empowered.
That's really important to me.
Yeah, and you know, you're always gonna have a little trouble here and there, but most of the time you can solve it and just keep going.
So when you think about this idea of marrying education and theatre and, and in terms of extending this to the broader community, what are some goals that you have for getting theatre into communities with that educational component?
My really big thing right now is trying to get to more schools.
We have a couple schools that we visit with our theatre for Young Audience program where the adults get to go perform kid shows, but there's still like so many schools in Topeka that we're missing.
So I'm trying really hard to reach out to all of those groups and all of the kids who might really love theatre, it might be really good at it, but their parents don't know anything about it or their teachers don't know anything about it.
So helping find different nooks where I can fit in and kind of let them know that there's this activity that, you know, maybe you're not great at sports and maybe you don't like sports and maybe you don't, you're not great at, you know, grades aren't your thing, but theatre is really that place where a lot of people have found their second home.
I really true want that for a lot more kids.
And Chelle, we've seen you as Aunty Mae in a myriad of other characters over the years.
You've been here helping with our fundraisers at KTWU.
Which we love.
Which, thank you so much.
Now let's hear, you're doing costume designs but you're on stage as well.
How does that work with knowing how to better make a costume to compliment the actor or actress?
You know, I think there, it's very helpful that I've been on stage because I, I can be a little sympathetic to the problems that happen and, and because actors need to feel comfortable and they need to feel like their costume is accentuating what they're doing on stage.
And so I, I think it helps, but it also, on the flip side, there's times I'm like yeah, you can figure that out.
Yeah, it's nice because you know, a lot of times people have a day job and then they come to the theater to volunteer and perform at night.
And so it's really wonderful that I get my day job to still be in that wonderful environment.
Well, and you're in a special, special situation because you all get to do this for a living.
Talk about how you get to do this and cross over into that cuz that's not happening too much with other people.
We're, we're really blessed to have a full-time job in the theatre.
That's not gig work.
A lot of people, especially during covid with theatres, were having to shut down for a while.
It was very iffy for a lot of professionals.
There were theatres that didn't make it through that.
And we are so fortunate with the community support that we had and the volunteer army who were willing to help keep us going that we bounced through it.
But it, it is that's.
It's so fortunate to have, for me to have a full-time theatre job with benefits in the same town as my mom and my sister and like my nephew and all of my family.
Like that's, not everyone gets that.
So that's amazing.
I try to share that love with other people if I can.
Cuz I, it's we're so lucky to be able.
To do that.
So when you're approaching projects, so I'll direct this question to the both of you.
Obviously you're gonna have different angles, so you'll talk about it from a directorial angle and from a costuming angle.
But when you get a new project and you start to approach it, what are some of the first steps that you take when you're thinking about how do, how am I gonna direct this and how am I gonna costume this?
So we, we'll start with you Cassie.
I have a very cheesy answer.
It's how many, how can I include as many kids as, and she's lived through this with me, how can I include as many kids as possible?
So I'm always looking at like, how many characters can I break up where everyone still has a fun part, but there's enough for everyone to go around and sharing as many parts as we can.
And then after that it's kind of like, how much fun can we have sharing this story?
What, what little jokes and things can we put in for the kids to have fun?
That's my first thing for sure though.
How many can I squeeze it?
So what's your approach when you set out to costume a show?
Well so much of my job actually early on in, in the process is research.
And so especially if it's a period show, if it's taking place during Elizabethan times, I need to do all of the back research.
And so there's a lot to be said for figuring out Elizabeth in undergarments.
So, so, so then I'm building a vision board and then I'm working with the director because ultimately I'm trying to carry out their vision for the show.
It's a very different job now as a costume designer than when I was in college and you were having to go to the library and find books and do all this research.
Now there's so much out there online for example, doing eggs.
I had to do life size eggs for Something Rotten.
I was able to go on YouTube.
There's so many people that do help me.
Your younger cosplay or cosplay?
There's so many people out there who are putting content out there on how to build these things that take foam and modge podge.
And so there's vast resources available now that help me a lot to be able to kind of do my research but that's, that's the beginning part.
It's actually the most fun part to me.
But this is so fun.
So Cassie, what's a great memory of something that you felt you had fun with and conveyed that fun?
So we worked on a show called Puffs, which was based off a certain school that we're not allowed to save a title of.
But it was a certain school wizard, witchcraft and wizardry.
And like I grew up with those books.
I love those books and my grandma like instilled in me that we love those books and all of the kids that came to audition love those books as well.
So it was literally just all of us playing around every day, figuring all the little jokes out and how we could make it funny.
And all of the little inside jokes that come with, if you've read all like seven books, things.
Was a, that was a show we really all had a great time with and it, I mean, sold out every night and you could really tell that the kids that were in it love the stories as much as the audience did.
Oh gosh, I guess my favorite theatre moment was getting to be on stage with my son.
I've been fortunate to do shows with my son or my husband and we got to do Peter Pan and I played his mom and he was little Michael that flies in the show.
And to have that moment on stage.
And we're very fortunate, there are times we did Scrooge one year there were 10 family units, whether it was brothers and sisters or parents and kids or 10 family units within the cast of 55.
And so they were spending the holidays together and rehearsals and singing these songs.
And so there's some wonderful moments like that that you get in community theatre that you just, you wanna trade for the world.
Well talking about your family because everybody in your family is an actor.
Talk about that because I'm sure that that's special in itself and does it carry over into your family life?
Like you're all at the house and you're emoting.
No, it's wonderful and it, and it's so cute.
There've been moments, I took a photo one time, my husband was on a show that he had a British accent and he was running lines with my son and my son's doing the British accent too.
And he was just a little tike back then.
And yes it, it's been, it's been a wonderful it.
It's taking that creativity home.
It's a family but, and it's not just when you're performing together, you know, we have parents who come and host and, and help with taking tickets because they're kids in the show that night and it's, they're people who come in and help sew, and their kid is in the show or there's so much teamwork that happens and friendships that are built.
We have a volunteer named Marvin Stottlemeyer and he said one time at an event we had, and I will paraphrase this incorrectly, but he said, you know, now we live in neighborhoods of privacy fences.
We don't have the, everybody's sitting out on their front porch and chit chatting if you're walking down the sidewalk, it's changing.
And so places like community theatres have become that backyard where people visit or the front porch where people visit and you meet people who you may have never encountered before because we all come together and do these wonderful projects.
It's so much more than just coming and seeing a show.
You know, and they are wonderful projects.
We wish we could speak like we always do.
And we thank Cassie and Chelle for speaking with us today.
Hang on just a minute.
We have more about performances coming up to a stage near you.
Do stay right there.
We're back continuing our discussion on the theater scene.
Joining us now is Aimee Rosenow, now marketing director at Topeka Civic Theatre.
Welcome to Inspire Amy, thank you so much for being here.
We're so excited to talk more about the theatre.
So first and foremost, can you give us an idea of what civic theatre is?
Theatre is a community just like Chelle was saying, it's just brings people together within your community and it's supported by the community, which is really important to help bring our mission and our pillars out to everyone in our area.
Will you tell us a little bit about the theatres in Topeka that we can go to?
Topeka Civic Theatre actually has three stages.
So we have our main stage, the Shuffle Theatre, we have the Oldfather Theatre, which is where all the academy productions take place.
And we also support Shawnee County Parks and Recreation with managing Helen Hawker Theatre.
How many people are involved in all three theatres?
Do you have an idea and estimate?
Yes, we have over 500 volunteers that help within the theatre plus staff.
So there's quite a big support system behind the community theatres here.
So if you could tell us a little bit, cuz I'm sure there are people at home that have always wanted to do theatre but they're not sure how to get started or maybe are timid to get involved because it can be kind of a scary idea to put yourself out there in an audition process.
So if you could both walk us through, if you could talk to us maybe if people have kids don't wanna get involved or how people could get involved maybe both on stage or behind the scenes if they were looking for volunteer opportunities.
We have lots of opportunities for kids at Topeka Civic Theatre.
We have classes that happen and we have camps and we have productions.
We also have something going around all year round and all you have to do is check our website and you can get enrolled at those.
The really great thing about our classes and camps are if you enroll in the class or enroll in the camp and you are a participant, you have a part, you automatically get lines.
Like that's just how it works.
It's for our productions, it is an audition process, but the classes and camps are a really great way to get your feet wet and to practice first and like get all of the jitters out and then go like audition for like a bigger show or something like that.
Are there scholarship opportunities for children that might need those?
Yes, we have full scholarship opportunities during the summer but also for the classes and also our productions do come with the fee.
We have scholarships available for all of that as well.
And what are some opportunities for people that are maybe out of the youth category?
Actually Cassie has done these before, but we do offer audition workshops from time to time.
So those are a really great way to get an idea of how that process works.
And you can also see how the behind the scenes parts work for auditions and decide if you wanna audition for that show or maybe be part of the crew of a show.
So there are a lot of great things you can gain from those workshops, whether you wanna part or not.
The other thing is we have crew, we have people who come in and help build the sets and we have people who run the lights, who do the sound systems.
So there are a lot of things within the production that our volunteers are amazing at and they have a lot of different skill sets.
So the great thing about the theatre is no matter what your skills are, there's something there for you.
What I mean, some people just like to help keep other people organized so they help in our administration office.
We love those people.
So we have a lot of opportunities for people to get involved and all they have to to do is go to our website or call our offices and we'll get them set up.
And not just on stage opportunities, right?
So if anyone is wants to be involved and wants to make new friends, then there are all kinds of opportunities.
Do all kinds of things but.
You, they learn so much.
Not just the lines or how to do something, but they learn about themselves.
How so Cassie.
One of the biggest things I focus on always is giving you that confidence to make those choices yourself.
What I discovered growing up was a lot of people were just making decisions on what spaced around them, but with acting and learning, hitting your cues, right?
If you're working backstage, if you're working a soundboard, a lightboard, it's up to you to make those decisions and it's up to you to do what you think is right.
So that's one of the most important things I think we learn.
And you can learn that doing anything in theatre cuz like we were talking about there, there's no stop and go right.
If something goes wrong, do what you believe is the best and next right thing to fix it.
And the chances are you're probably right.
That's gonna carry over into your working life, your family life.
100 hundred percent.
I always tell people, theatre's one of the things that you can apply to literally everything.
I mean every theatre person's worked those weird jobs.
I, I was a administrative assistant and I was the one who always answered the phones cuz I don't have that.
I, I don't mind talking to people and I don't mind presenting to people.
And I'm used to it.
So I was the one answering the phones or helping train the others cuz it didn't bother me to talk to other people.
And so that you'd get those skills and you take 'em with you, you can apply it to anything.
To me, theatre is the most perfect world because literally you can get people from any background, race, nationality, political persuasion, they all get on stage.
And they hang out because everybody is accepted.
Talk about that.
We have a really great group of people and one of our pillars is inclusion and making sure that we have those opportunities for everyone.
What about that with you and especially with the kids?
Yes, with the kids.
We work really hard to create a safe environment for everybody.
It's something that I hold really important in the education department and luckily my designers do as well.
We're very open to all, all colors of the rainbow and it's one of my favorite things about us and we've had lots of kids.
One that's in a show currently actually told me that our summer camp was the only place they've felt safe before.
So in that vein, talk to us about, I mean there are real mental health benefits to being involved in something like this.
So what are some things that you see people really personally benefiting from outside of Applause if they're on stage or watching their costume creation come to life?
I can talk to something more specific because my daughter is involved in theatre.
That's actually how I got involved in theater.
I think that's a gateway for a lot of people is through their kids and she does struggle with anxiety and talking to people.
And theatre has helped her so much just to gain that confidence, even if she's pretending to be somebody else.
I mean she's getting those skills so when she goes out later in life, she'll be able to communicate with people and have more confidence and be able to empathize with others who are going through that too.
For a job.
But what about you?
We have just everyone involved and all the kids are involved and they really become a great team at the end of it.
Like we're, the show we're working on right now when they're all excited to come back tonight.
Like we took a break and now they're like, oh I really miss my friends in Tinker Bell and I really wanna talk to my crew member friends.
And I know for me I have like, I was a bridesmaid in two volunteers weddings, like they met at the theatre.
Oh they met her like one works backstage and one's a stage manager and they met together and then I got, and now I'm a bridesmaid.
And there was another person who, she was the, the Lady of Honor.
On the other side.
And she's also a crazy awesome volunteer.
So I mean you really become a family.
Well I have to say I was a theatre nerd as well.
So when I couldn't find acceptance any place else, yeah, I had my theatre friends and so I'm all about that.
So I appreciate what theatre friends to people, so I really appreciate what you all have brought to our conversation today.
So thank you so much for being with us and talking about the community theatre cuz it's such a passion for this community and you can tell by the way it's been supported.
So please stay with us.
If this young gentleman have done offence.
I take the fault on me if you offend him, I, for him defy you.
Lady Shakes originally began with an all female production of 12th Night.
It was a collaborative effort between Topeka Civic Theatre as well as other local and area theatres.
And we performed at the Jayhawk and it turned out to be such a blast and was met with a, a lot of approval and enthusiasm from local audiences.
And when Covid hit, not long after and theaters as well as basically all live entertainment venues were shut down.
Several of us were brought together by Shannon Riley who had the idea that we could actually form this into a theatre company.
And there was the possibility of performing outside, which was also great because by being our own company, we would be, we wouldn't be limited to performing in a single solitary indoor space that instead we could truly become a community-based theater simply in being able to perform at a variety of venues.
The idea was an all female production, of course in Shakespeare's time, men performed all the roles.
And so it's kind of a fun thing to have women perform all the roles they often are called breaches productions.
When you give women a chance to play some of those roles that, that we wouldn't have a chance to play otherwise.
When the women that are in the male roles, we haven't tried to act like men per se.
It's really just more about who that character is.
Just like any other role, of course, you know, there are a lot of things that, that men do differently.
And so there's a little bit of physicality that's different, but for the most part it's really just a different character.
It's not, it's not a political statement, it's not a joke.
Although we have been known to take advantage of some of the funnier moments when, because everybody knows obviously, that it's a woman playing a man.
And so there are certain lines that when a woman gives that line, it comes off differently.
And a lot of times we will play on that humor, but it's not, it's not why we do it, it's still just an opportunity to, to play some really great roles.
And Shakespeare wrote a lot of great women, but most of his really meaty roles were for the men.
And so we loved the opportunity to really dig in and and play those, those roles that we wouldn't have a chance to otherwise.
We are blessed to have so many opportunities to enjoy theatre in this town.
Amber, as an actress, you could relate to so much of that and more.
And I've been so fortunate to work with both of those, those wonderful people and I'm, and I'm just now getting to know Amy and she's wonderful and doing great things for the theatre.
And I think that it, for those of us that have been fortunate enough to participate, it's a gift in your life really.
This is how I met my husband.
He was bartending at the Topeka Civic Theatre and I was in a show and I, I'm terrible at flirting.
And so I, I came up and I said, ah, could I have a hot tea?
And now we're married.
You know what?
And I think our other host, Amy Kelly was in a musical and she heard her husband singing his part out on stage and she was like, who is that?
So then she met him too and I'm like, we need to get in theatre girl.
Excuse me, I have a hot tea?
Oh my God.
It was the most embarrassing.
When I reflect on it, I'm like, I don't know how, because my husband is adorable and he is also an actor and super talented.
And I was like, I'm a fool.
I don't know how God, but I was persistent I asked for tea every night and now I'm now he's the love of my life.
So go, go get involved in the theatre.
Oh, I need to go.
We need to.
You do make beautiful friendships and relationships and what you were saying is this idea of everybody's welcome.
I kind of think of it as like the island of lost toys for the mystery toys, your toys, other areas of your life you maybe don't fit in so much.
But then you find these people that are so open and there's so, there's a level of vulnerability you have to be willing to express when you do theatre and that really opens you up to experiences with people that you might not be open to outside of theatre life.
And you need to learn too how if you don't get the part, you've got to accept the, you didn't get that part, but you'll get another part.
Just ball your eyes out a little bit and go on the next audition, so be fine.
But you learn resilience too.
Because if there's not this part, there's another part that's gonna be coming because there's always something coming up.
So I mean, you know, it's, it's awesome.
And again, you have friends.
You've got your theatre friends and you hang out with them cuz the strike parties are the best parties ever.
It was the first time I ever got to stay out late Oh my.
When I was in high school and I figured out that like the street lights actually do flash after dark.
I didn't know that.
Cuz again, were Pentecostals.
And so I didn't get to actually stay out late, but I got to do a strike party and I'm like, oh my God, this is so cool with my theatre friends.
And it was, it was just totally fun.
And then you could tell, and then you could tell somebody who you know that was watching out for you.
You know, I'm not telling you a story.
I'm actually gonna be at the theatre.
I'm gonna be at the theatre.
And some wild things happen at the theater.
Prob probably It's a good thing.
That's all the time we have for today.
So we hope you have.
Been inspired by today's conversations.
Maybe a little embarrassed.
We hope that we have inspired you though to take action in our community.
As a reminder, you can watch this program again at watch.ktwu.org And if you are so inspired to learn more about our guests, find out what's coming up on future shows, and to get access to additional content, be sure to visit our website at www.ktwu.org/inspire.
Inspiring women inspiring performances, inspiring you on KTWU.
Thank you for watching.
Inspire is sponsored by Kansas Furniture Mart, using furniture to inspire conversation.
And by the Blanche Bryden Foundation.
The friends of KTWU, honored to support programs and services that enrich the lives of our viewers.
And the Raymond C and Marguerite Gibson Foundation.