"My favorite aspect of the arts in Tulsa is the rich history our city has of supporting and encouraging artists, performers and entertainment organizations. To know that some of the wealth of the oil days provided us with museums, an opera and a ballet company is heartening."
Todd Cunningham, Creative Director of Garage Media
A bevy of artistic talent grows in this city. With world class ballet and opera companies, art museums, classical musicians, art galleries and community theatre companies, local artists are working (usually for free) to ensure that Tulsa has no shortage of culture and creativity.
While all of them are worth mentioning, we'd like to celebrate 15 individuals who, oftentimes under the radar and unbeknownst to the public, endeavor tirelessly to promote, perpetuate and improve the arts in Tulsa.
Spoken Word Artist
Probably the best definition ever given for the spoken word art form came from Tulsa's resident spoken word activist and aficionado, Tony Brinkley: "Spoken word is like poetry on steroids."
Brinkley, who chairs Living ArtSpace's Spoken Word Committee and organizes the gallery's annual Poetry Slam, has dabbled in poetry since his youth; but it was in 2002, with his marriage crumbling, that he began to take his hobby seriously.
"My first poems were about love and heartache--cathartic stuff," Brinkley said.
Spoken word came about in the 1980s, combining poetry and lyrical text with rhythmic delivery, but it took the 1990's poetry slams to solidify its place in both the art and literary worlds.
"I want to be able to bring the most talented spoken word artists in the nation to perform in Tulsa and have a packed house," said Brinkley.
He's coordinating the latest installment of the Living Arts Poetry Slam, a competitive spoken word/poetry event that pits artists against one another within specific time boundaries and in front of a group of judges, scheduled for Saturday, April 18.
When he writes, Brinkley said, "I might be inspired to write by a dream or event, but I love to write about how we can all do a better job helping others or celebrating our time on this big blue marble. And I really revel in the sensual stuff."
In his words, "Performance poetry is poetic musings spoken out loud, with or without physical demonstrations elucidating their meanings. It is ethereal and provocative expressions of thoughts and feelings on an infinite number of subjects. It is poetry you can feel, it is poetry you can taste. It is poetry that leaves this stage, sits down next to you and tries to get into your pants.
"Performance poets want to reach that place between your ears that responds to verbal ministrations penetrating your aural openings, sliding over moist, gray matter, with words that stroke and lick your soul, 'til it purrs like a warm, furry, contented putty tat, causing you to manipulate and orient yourself to get the full effect from the personas we erect.
"We want to touch you orally as we slap you, scare you, shake you, reach inside of you and motivate you to join in syncopated rhythm our verbal lyrical alliterations, making your heart beat faster as we explode cosmic brilliance and spout spectacular visuals."
Up Next: Brinkley is preparing for the "Umpteenth" Annual Living Arts Poetry Slam (it's been going on so long, no one can remember when it started), scheduled for Saturday, April 18 at the gallery, 308 S. Kenosha. Brinkley says he anticipates it will be the largest event yet, both in number of poets and attendees. Go to www.livingarts.org for more info or to register.
Geoffrey Hicks is a 27-year-old mixed media visual and installation artist who graduated from Booker T. Washington in 2000 before studying at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.
His work is somewhat a hodgepodge of photography, technology and installation, and he admits that he doesn't prefer one specific medium to any other.
"While at Booker T., I took photography classes from Don Thompson and have been experimenting with photography ever since," said Hicks. "At the same time during high school, I spent a lot of time fixing cars in auto class. I quickly realized that my love for all things mechanical could be combined with photography and visual art.
"I do everything from writing software and soldering microchips to sewing, painting, machining metals and mixing concrete."
Hicks' most recent project, "Voyeur," " a robotic video installation examining ideas of privacy, technology and voyeurism," premiered at the most recent Momentum exhibit, sponsored by the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, in Oklahoma City.
"Most of my inspiration is internal, brought about by challenging myself," Hicks said.
Hicks said he believes, with the opening of the Arts and Humanities Council's Visual Arts Center and Living Arts' move to a site adjacent to that, the arts community will be allowed to thrive like never before.
"I think Tulsa has been struggling to find its identity for a while now, and that makes it extra hard for the arts to be cohesive in the community," said Hicks.
Up Next: Hicks is working on several large-scale projects for exhibition this year. One is an interactive video installation involving a modified robotic arm. He's also working on a performance art installation involving people outfitted with heart monitors.
Whitson Hannah, another CalArts graduate with a bachelor's degree in theatre, has been acting in and directing community theatre productions in and around Tulsa since he returned here following an eight-year stint in California. Most recently, he directed Theatre Tulsa's Educating Rita.
His interest in theatre began as a sort of self-imposed curse in the fifth grade. When his small town's elementary school class was chosen to produce, write and act in the fifth grade production, Hannah went straight for the lead.
"I had never done anything like theatre, and when it came time to audition, I quickly learned that I had found my calling. I loved it! I loved reading, and I auditioned for every part. I loved making everyone laugh, all of that glorious attention. I knew immediately that I had stumbled on something special. And I also knew that I was a lock for the lead," said Hannah.
But, when he didn't get the role he'd auditioned for, he swore off theatre for "the rest of my life."
"Yeah, I jinxed myself," he said.
"I rarely do a show, either acting or directing, that I do not enjoy," said Hannah. "You have to have an undying, passionate love to do this art form.
"I recently did It's a Wonderful Life at the Sapulpa Community Theater. We did the show a radio play, complete with sound effects. It was written for 17 actors to play 64 parts, which meant I cast every single person that showed up at auditions, and then looked for more.
"I have never been involved in a theater piece that was such a product of the community. That wonderful cast poured every ounce of their time and effort into the work. And even though they may not have had the acting credits to their names, because of their passion and hard work, they put on one of best shows I'd experienced in years. I had an 80-year-old woman tell me that she shut her eyes and listened and was pulled back to her childhood. If we achieved that, we had a great show."
Hannah, who's working on David Mamet's Speed the Plow, set to open in May, said he's continually impressed (as are we at UTW) with the caliber of talent and the varying community theatre companies in Tulsa. His hope for local community theatre is that it strives to reach new and young audiences and cultivate new and up-and-coming artists.
"I would like to see the birth and survival of a professional theater company on par with the Tulsa Opera and Tulsa Ballet," he said.
Up Next: Hannah is in the process of organizing (and performing in) a production of David Mamet's Speed the Plow, to be produced by Ken Tracy of Choregus Productions at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. 2nd St., May 28-31.
Kira Von Sutra
Some people might debate whether or not burlesque qualifies as an art form.
"Burlesque is very much an art. It takes a lot of creative energy to make costumes and put together a routine. I think it's just as much as an art form as modern dance or ballet," said 24-year-old Kira Von Sutra (a.k.a. Kira Siegfried), a local burlesque performer for more than six years.
Burlesque, born out of vaudeville theatre, celebrates sensuality and sexuality by emphasizing the "tease" in striptease.
The art form has, in recent years, gained popularity in Tulsa, despite our city's reputation for being just another ultra-conservative notch on the country's Bible Belt.
"I am not surprised that Tulsa loves it," said Siegfried. "People here are really open to new and exciting things. Usually the crowd response is better here then most other places I perform."
Siegfried said that, though the response is usually good, there are still quite a few people in Tulsa who don't know what burlesque is and are understandably surprised the first time they attend a show.
Still, Kira Von Sutra's notoriety around town has led her to performances around the country, including Las Vegas and Seattle. This year, she'll perform at a rockabilly festival in Austria.
She also models and teaches women the "art of tease" and "how to own (their) own personal, sexy style."
"There were a couple of years where people doubted me," Siegfried said. "They told me that I wasn't going to be able to make anything of myself by trying to be a burlesque dancer. But I knew that it was my calling.
"I want to dazzle audiences across the world. No matter where I am in the world, I will always return to perform in Tulsa. This is my home and my backbone. I also want burlesque to always be available in Tulsa."
Up Next: Siegfried is booking performances both locally and across the country, and, this summer, she will perform in Austria.
For 10 years, Ma Cong has performed with the Tulsa Ballet, but it has been in the last six years that the China native has earned national accolades as a choreographer.
Cong began his career at the age of 10 when he began studying Chinese Folk Dance at the Beijing Dance Academy. Seven years later, he was asked by the artistic director of National Ballet of China to join the company as a professional ballet dancer, a risky move that would open countless doors to his future.
After four years with NBC, Cong sought to join a company in America or Europe, but he lacked a private passport needed to travel to those countries and audition for their ballet companies.
"One day, (Marcello) Angelini (Tulsa Ballet's artistic director) called me and asked me to send him my dancing video, which I did right away. A week later, I received a contract from Tulsa Ballet. I was shocked. It's still a question mark for me how Marcello got in touch with me," said Cong.
Angelini commissioned a new work for his company from Cong in 2004, and the artist has since choreographed five works for the company -- Folia, Samsara, Carmina Burana, Crash and Blood Rush -- and is working on another world premiere for TB's May performance.
"His love for dance and his drive to be a force behind the growth of the company have made Ma a recognizable face in the community and an audience favorite onstage," said Angelini. "Ma was born with a natural gift for dance in all its facets.
"At this time, Ma is no longer just a local talent," said Angelini. "He was named by Dance Magazine one of the '25 to watch worldwide' a few years back...
"The reality is that the time he spends in Tulsa will start to decrease. Next year, he might have to miss a series or two, as he was asked to stage or create new works for at least three national companies. While we'll miss him onstage, I am very proud to share with the rest of the country a talent that comes from Tulsa."
Up Next: Cong has been asked by three major national ballet companies to choreograph new works for their next season.
Daniel Fritschie, a digital illustrator best known around these parts for organizing the "Personality of Cult" art exhibition at Circle Cinema two years in a row, had the kind of childhood would-be artists dream about.
"Growing up, my mother ran her stained glass studio out of our den, but as her business grew over the years, she pretty much took over the living room as well," said Fritschie.
"When most kids were figuring out crayons and safety scissors, my brother and I had Prismacolors and X-Acto blades. I remember once in third grade, I did my penmanship homework with a calligraphy pen... and aced it."
In high school, Fritschie took classes like "anatomical sculpture" in lieu of biology, creative writing instead of English and a "geometry art class." He attended Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee, where he studied graphic design with an emphasis on typography and computer-aided illustration.
"Throughout my professional career, I've been able to draw on all these past influences to create a tailored look to any project that comes my way, particularly my fondness for Art Deco," said Fritschie. "Deco is pretty prominent here in Tulsa, both in architecture and in people's sensibilities.
"I use the term 'digital illustration' instead of simply 'Photoshop' because I like to think of Photoshop as more of a tool rather than a medium," said Fritschie. "Also, now that Photoshop has become such a household name and it has proliferated to nearly every computer on the planet, I just don't feel right advertising my work as being done in the same program some people use to splice a celebrity's head onto a swimsuit model's body."
Up Next: Following the popularity of "Personality of Cult" and "Personality of Cult: Episode Deux," Fritschie plans to incorporate the same themes into a July exhibition to be called "Mixtape Art Show." Artists are asked to submit work, no larger than a 12-inch by 12-inch album sleeve, inspired by their favorite song. The song has to have a beat because the show will coincide with the weekly Mixtape event at Exit 6C, hosted by DJs Lynn K and Robbo. Submissions are due April 17 and the show opens July 18.
Erin Scarberry became part of the three-man staff of the City of Tulsa-owned theatre companies, Heller and Clark, in 2007 as recreation coordinator. Under this title, the University of Oklahoma graduate directs plays at each theater, teaches classes, designs and paints sets and markets the theaters.
Before her return to Oklahoma in 2007, Scarberry worked for four years as a director in Chicago. And before completing her BFA at OU, she attended an acting conservatory in New York.
Most recently, Scarberry appeared on stage in the Actor's Company of Tulsa's Mr. Marmalade, in which she played a 4-year-old girl with some, er, interesting imaginary friends. She also recently directed Clark Theatre's The Sound of Music.
"I get to do many of the things that I love every single day, and each day of my job is different," said Scarberry.
Like most who pursue careers in the arts, Scarberry's fondness for the stage came to her at a young age.
"I saw a production of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court when I was 11, and I knew immediately that I wanted to be onstage. I was hooked," said Scarberry.
"I don't know why, but I will watch a movie or a play and then I usually forget it, which is nice because I can enjoy it all over again the second time. But with that first play, I remember the details -- the color of the costumes, the actor's movement. It inspired me to go to an audition, and I got cast as Godzella, the wicked stepsister in a Cinderella spoof," she said.
"Growing up in Oklahoma, I was always impressed by the support that Tulsa gives to the Arts. I am also constantly amazed at the wealth of talent here. Each theater in town has its own niche; we all do something different and we do it well. There is a lot of great work being produced in this community," said Scarberry.
Up Next: Scarberry is teaching a pre-teen acting class at Clark Theatre, has agreed to direct Mamet's Speed the Plow in May and is preparing to stage a Shakespeare work this summer
A couple of months ago, Todd Cunningham started Garage Media, a PR and marketing firm aimed specifically at local arts and entertainment organizations. Cunningham launched the firm out of his garage with nothing more than good friends, good ideas and a career's worth of experience in the PR and arts industries.
Formerly director of marketing and public relations for the Tulsa Ballet, Cunningham saw that he could use his experience marketing and managing arts organizations to help better local arts and entertainment endeavors.
"During my time at the ballet, I was able to see first hand what was working and not working with regard to marketing, advertising and ticket sales in the local arts community," said Cunningham.
He got together with friends and cohorts Chad Oliverson and Deb Watson to start Garage Media, and he works with other local PR and arts aficionados on a contractual basis. His biggest clients right now are Choregus Productions, Barthelmes Conservatory and the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's SummerStage theatre festival.
"Originally, we had planned to partner with local organizations to help with branding, graphic design, advertising, PR and marketing," said Cunningham. "We're doing that, but we've also been asked to help in other areas, including budgeting and management, grant writing and special events. Enlarging our focus has created a diverse client base for us, which I really like. It keeps life interesting and provides for a more stable future for our company and our network of professionals."
Cunningham worked at Tulsa Ballet for almost four years and developed a knowledge of and fondness for the arts in Tulsa.
"My favorite aspect of the arts in Tulsa is the rich history our city has of supporting and encouraging artists, performers and entertainment organizations. To know that some of the wealth of the oil days provided us with museums, an opera and a ballet company is heartening," Cunningham said.
"My least favorite aspect is the storied failure of all of these local groups to be organized and to support each other. If they ever found a way to work together, the city and the individual organizations would be better. Instead, it is strangely competitive when it doesn't need to be."
Cunningham said of Garage Media, "Our plan is to spread the good word. We know how to do that and do it pretty well."
Up Next: Cunningham is working on promotional materials for a number of local arts and entertainment organizations, including the PAC's SummerStage theatre festival.
M. Teresa Valero
Teresa Valero, a Venezuela native, is an applied professor of art in graphic design and former director at the University of Tulsa's School of Art. In 1994, she started a small studio at TU called Third Floor Design, which does pro-bono advertising and graphic design work for area organizations. In 2009, Third Floor Design received an Eddy award from the Tulsa Advertising Federation for significant contributions to the advertising industry.
"[Third Floor Design] not only provides the not-for-profit agencies the needed help with design and production, but also educates the designer on the social and art-related issues that our industry is facing," said Valero.
"I grew up in a family of artists, (with) a brother who was a poet and a writer, a sister who worked for the arts council in my hometown Barquisimeto, a brother who was in photography and film, and my mother, who did not have any degree but loved designing jewelry for her children. I was surrounded by art and talk about art making since I was very young," said Valero.
"I came to the United States to study graphic design and fell in love with photography and art history, and somehow I was able to combine all my interests in both my undergraduate and graduate work.
"Photography is my creative outlet. I like documentary photography because it is not all said by one single image but by a combination of images. I am drawn to people and their faces. Your face pretty much tells the story of who you are, what you have through and what you have become," said Valero.
"I became a teacher by accident. I needed an assistantship while I was doing my graduate work, and I applied to teach a beginning graphic design course and two courses in foundations 2-D and 3-D design. It seemed like a no-brainer to teach, but, in reality, you have to become super clear and simple so that you do not loose your audience. Teaching makes you understand the subject better and teaches you to trace paths or roadways so that the students can follow the lesson."
Up Next: Valero is teaching, and her Third Floor Studio is cranking out graphic design projects for area non-profits and other organizations.
Lee Roy Chapman
Screen Print Artist
Lee Roy Chapman is a screen print artist who is a self-described local history junkie and has penchant for challenging the establishment.
"I grew up here in Tulsa. Through the 1970s, my dad was the manager of Casa Bonita, one of the first restaurants that created 'entertainment dining.' So my earliest memories are based in this surreal environment, this place with an artificial night sky, piped-in bird sounds, a stinky waterfall, fake jail and mariachis singing Bob Wills' tunes. This was my playground," said Chapman.
He learned to screen print in 1990 at a small t-shirt shop adjacent to Jim French's studio on Brady Street.
"At this same time, there were these cool silk-screened posters for the Flaming Lips and this other post-psychedelic art band called the War Hippies popping up around town," Chapman said. "There was a very creative underground scene that was producing some very striking visuals and post-punk music at this time--completely independent and counterculture. I've made sure that energy has always been a part of my adult life. When it's absent, I desperately seek it out."
He moved to Austin in 1992 and found work at Action Screen Graphics. The first poster he ever designed and printed was for Johnny Cash's live debut of the American Recordings in 1994, he said. The second was for Beck, and his first mural, a 20x8' silkscreen piece, still hangs at Emo's on Sixth Street.
In 1996, Chapman returned to Tulsa to do art direction for an indie film and stayed, screen printing commercially and working at Oak Tree Books on 15th Street.
His most recent artistic endeavor, called "Public Secrets," premiered at Living Arts last winter, with new installments coming this summer. Chapman collaborated with Darshan Phillips and Aaron Wisner of Live4This and Greg Williams of Black Mesa Studio to put the project together.
"That project... was inspired by Gaylord Herron. He's a critically acclaimed fine arts photographer who's been taking photographs for over 40 years in Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma," said Chapman.
"He's a local photographer with worldwide influence, yet there is no public representation of his work here in Tulsa, other than at his bike shop. So, in conversations I had with him over the last nine years, I saw this connection between him and many others in the creative class that no one seemed to know about here in Tulsa. Over this time, I had collected yearbook photos from the library of these people. So I wanted to honor them and put together a show that would be interesting, combining really graphic images, silkscreens and have a huge dose of history."
Up Next: Chapman recently opened a gallery, called "The Woodul Gallery," on Sixth Street in Pawhuska and will exhibit the work of photographer Gaylord Herron, opening this weekend.
In explaining artists' manipulation of video, film and Internet technology, local teacher, video artist and rockabilly rebel (who plays with The Starkweather Boys) J.D. McPherson always likens it to that of a sable brush or any other invention: artists always clamor over anything new to see how they can use it for their creative benefit, he says.
McPherson has experimented with video art since he was 13, shooting short, narrative things, he said.
"But as time went on, I found myself setting up a tripod around the ranch I grew up on and shooting entire videotapes of things like hay bales, sleeping dogs, white pine trees, cows and dry creeks," McPherson said. "The camera would be just 'staring' at these things. These video studies of the rural environment would sometimes run into the 20-minute mark, usually depending on how much battery life I had.
"That said, I never stopped drawing and painting or experimenting with any medium I could get my hands on and my head around. I'll bet a hundred bucks that I'm the only fella in the world with graduate credit hours in card magic within a fine arts course of study. It's true."
McPherson is an art teacher at Holland Hall School and the chair of the New Media Committee at Living Arts of Tulsa. Most recently, he curated "ART.net" in conjunction with Living Arts' New Genre Festival, and he'll open a solo exhibition titled "Mealer/Cleaver" at the gallery this month.
"[Mealer/Cleaver] is a meditative, multi-sensory video installation [with] axes silently splitting logs, hammers gently smashing rocks, wind blowing. It's what came out of me after skimming the Gospel of Thomas and some of the Sufi poets," said McPherson.
"These days, its all about accessibility and exposure to mass media. It's tough to say what the future is, but everybody these days at least has a camcorder and a YouTube channel, whether they've thought about using these things for creative expression or not."
Up Next: McPherson opens his video installation "Mealer/Cleaver," which examines spiritual development through common farm tools and manual labor, this Thursday at Liggett Studio, 314 S. Kenosha.
You could call it bragging, but it's true: Starr Hardgrove has participated in more than 150 performances in Tulsa, either as an actor, producer or director.
An Ada native, Hardgrove earned a bachelor's degree in theatre from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and is working toward a Master of Fine Arts in acting.
Along with Cassie Hollis and John Clark, Hardgrove started The Actor's Company of Tulsa, formerly known as Evandrake Productions, to produce Proof, Mr. Marmalade and The Threepenny Opera. The company's goal, Hardgrove said, is to put great plays in the hands of professional actors.
"We are basically an actor-managed company that is open to many different productions and production styles," he said.
Another of Hardgrove's ideas realized, one that has taken off in popularity, is the Tulsa Creative Network, an online directory of local creatives who commune together on an online social Web site. So far, the site has about 300 users who are able to come together to collaborate and "develop lasting friendships that will foster a creative explosion in Tulsa and the surrounding cities."
Hardgrove was in the midst of casting Sapulpa Community Theater's production of Dracula: The Musical when he was struck with the idea for TCN. Not enough people showed up to the audition to fill the cast, and he needed a way to get in touch with a lot of creatives at once.
"My main focus with the organization, which is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization, is to make a site that is useful to the artists and facilitates the creativity networking needs of the artists in Tulsa and the surrounding areas. We have been growing at the steady rate of one to two people per day and rely entirely on word of mouth and by organizing events that place the creatives in the same room where they can get to know one another," Hardgrove said.
As a driving force behind Tulsa's theatre community, Hardgrove said, "I hope to offer a fresh prospective on plays and theatre... Something has been lost in our theatrical community -- substance is usually compromised in trade of getting people in the door and filling an audience."
Up Next: Hardgrove is in the process of planning a Tulsa Creative Network-sponsored, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design)-inspired conference, with four days of workshops, in July.
Four fun facts about graphic designer and digital artist Duane Fernandez: "I was fortunate enough to be a product of the Hollywood art scene in the early 1980s, so I am very heavily influenced by both graffiti and skateboarding.
"I moved to Denmark when I was in my early teens and was completely inspired by the country's appreciation for modern and contemporary design.
"I'm fascinated by military philosophy and military design.
"I'm typically carrying at least one camera with me at all times."
Fernandez moved to Tulsa in 2007 and was immediately taken by "the thriving art scene and the city's incredible history," he said.
"Tulsa is a unique place with so much character, it's hard not to fall in love with it. I saw opportunity here, so I made the leap and I am happy I did."
As an artist exploring the digital medium, Fernandez said, "I discovered a passion for the digital medium when Microsoft first released the Paintbrush program for Windows in the early '90s. As much as I enjoy working on computers, I have always felt that every project should have tangible aspects to it.
"My passion for the digital world is a love/hate relationship, which continues to evolve every day."
Last year Fernandez founded the "Left Field Project," a boutique/exhibition space dedicated to paying homage to the artistic styles and figures that have influenced West coast surf and skate genres. The gallery will open a new exhibit of work by local artist Michael Sexton April 3.
"Left Field Project started because I wanted to write a book about the people that have influenced my life," Fernandez said. "The project focuses on those in the art, fashion, film and design world. There are more than 300 interviews in our book, a new gallery, studio and documentary in production. Our goal is to keep everything in motion and allow the projects to continue to grow at their own pace. The ultimate goal of Left Field Project is to inspire and encourage passion in everyone."
As for the arts in Tulsa, Fernandez said, "There are quite a few artists who are really putting themselves out there, critics be damned. That's always so inspirational to me, to see other people really doing their thing and making it work.
"I wish there were just as many art enthusiasts as there were artists. It would be great to get even more encouragement from the community from a financial aspect -- you know, people getting out there and showing support at art shows, not only through attendance, but also by actually buying the art. Money is good."
Up Next: On April 3, Fernandez's gallery LFP opens an exhibit of abstract paintings and sculptures by local artist Michael Sexton
Chris Crawford and Courtneay Sanders
With The Playhouse Theatre, founded earlier this year, Chris Crawford and Courtneay Sanders are proving that daring, provocative theatre isn't just about explicit language and questionable subject matter; it's also about rethinking and reinventing traditional, classical theatre in new and exciting ways.
The Playhouse Theatre debuted at the Tulsa PAC two months ago with Romeo and Juliet, directed by Crawford and starring Sanders with a host of other talent pulled primarily from their classes at Oral Roberts University. Both teach in the theatre department there, and Sanders is the Director of Theatre.
Sanders said TPT, inspired in part by the Dallas Theater Center, hopes to introduce Tulsa audiences to new works they may not have seen before that will inspire and challenge people. TPT is a professional company that pays everyone involved with its productions.
"Our hope is that a lot of our high school/university-aged talent studying in Tulsa will be able to work and train with professionals that are coming in to Tulsa to work," said Crawford. "On the same note, however, Tulsa has a huge talent pool of writers, actors, designers, stage managers, and directors right here. And, (for people) like me, the idea has been for a long time that you have to get out of Tulsa to work in your field and get money.
"We are striving, slowly but surely, to change that mindset. We're bringing back a lot of Tulsa natives who have moved on to once again make an appearance in the Tulsa theatre scene. Some really exciting things are in the works."
"One thing that we're bringing is a lot of new faces," said Sanders. "A lot of people, including myself, have been turned off with Tulsa theatre and how segregated it has become. One of the many good things about Playhouse thus far is that at every audition we've held, we've had more than 50 people come out and audition, many of which have never worked in the Tulsa theatre scene, and we're very excited to bring them to the forefront.
"We want to break some of the barriers that exist among theatre companies in this community. We want to work with everyone. When we're all on the same page, that's when the right story gets told."
Up Next: The Playhouse Theatre's next production is "Someone to Fall Back On," a cabaret performance by Crawford, Matt Bittner, Karen Q. Clark, Becca Hyvonen, Leesa Michaelson, Alexander Walter and Seth Harman Saturday, April 25 at the PAC. In July, the company will produce Lend Me a Tenor.
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