The morning fog hangs over the neighborhood here in downtown Aurora, it reflects and fills this third floor loft with a natural gray white light. I begin to reflect on a conversation I had recently with a concerned friend; “Aren’t you worried about competing with the other theaters doing the same shows with the same actors and the same audience?” The question came out of nowhere, as our focus was on my friend’s problem, and I realized we were now going to talk about how I am doing. To answer the question, I replied: “No, I’m not and I’ll tell you why.” And of course I was off and running…I have never seen this as a competition. I took this job as a mission. Just a few years ago in the fall of 2010, I drove up to the darkened grand marquee of the Paramount Theatre on a gray day much like this one. There wasn’t a single person on the street except for Tim Rater who was waiting for me. Overcast, remote, isolated, it felt like an abandoned movie set. Tim and I were complete strangers, and we were both a little nervous, I think. We had talked on the phone, and he asked me to consider being the artistic director of a new Broadway Series. And here I was to meet him and see the theater. Intuitively, driving into town, I felt a spirit about the place. The possibility of being at the beginning of something. Building from the ground up. Tim unlocked the front doors into the impressively renovated lobby, and we continued to slowly walk through the original doors of the empty theater. I’m sure I gasped “Wow” and sucked in some air as I became speechless, the gorgeous temple taking my breath away. Feeling like my feet were off the ground in dream-like slow motion kind of floating down the aisle, I gaze taking it all in much like a movie camera gliding along on a dolly. My heart pounding, in almost like a little panic I’m thinking “How could I be the artistic director of this?” Tim is very serious, and I’m aware he is reading my every move. Incredulously trying to appraise the scale of the stage deck and the height of the proscenium, I blurt out, “How do you fill this up?” This gets a reaction from Tim, he warms up a little. But he is still tense. We walk up onto the stage. I look out into the house. I feel the actor in me puff up his chest to see the giant balcony and the ceiling’s Venetian Art Deco chandelier. I look down over the huge orchestra pit. “This pit is huge! We have to fill it. Could we do full orchestras? We have to.” Tim liked the idea: “We’ll see.”

Instinctively, I could feel the importance of this moment. Having this theatre produce it’s own shows for the first time in it’s eighty year history could make a difference in this town and have a huge impact on the community. They would have something of their own to be proud of. I could be a part of that. A part of an economic and artistic revival. I’m telling this tale of my first impressions to make a point, Dear Reader. I never went into this thinking we are going to be the best. I went into this knowing we will do our best. There was never once a thought of competing with other theaters. How would I think we possibly could? Tim had the vision. Tim could see it. He crunched the numbers. It worked on paper. I had never done anything like this before in my life. I liked being a freelance director and actor and choreographer. Work would overlap once in a while, sure, but I enjoyed the downtime between projects. This was going to consume every waking minute. On the job training. Learning by doing. Kicking ass was the last thing on my mind. And still is. After three seasons, yes, confidence has grown, but I don’t think the terror will ever subside. We’re not looking at what others are doing and comparing. We are looking at serving and doing what’s best for our audience, our actors, our designers and tech & production crews and the writers we are granted license to produce. We are not trying to be better than anyone else. My belief is that every theater is doing it’s best. That we challenge ourselves and not each other. Everyone brings their best game and everyone wins. Audiences are growing, ladies and gentlemen. People are being rewarded for attending and supporting live theatre. Every theatre is a neighborhood theatre. As a community, as audiences become enthusiastic, their hunger for more has them reaching and attend the offerings of other theaters expanding their appreciation of different theaters. For me, this is not a competition but a culture of developing a living art. And we are all growing. As for Paramount, the results of the pre-sale of new and renewed subscribers are being tallied and processed. We have reached almost 19,000 for Season Four. And this will continue to grow as subscriptions for great seats (we have expanded to five and six week runs next season) will begin to go on sale again starting May 5th. (Single ticket purchases will not be available until next month). We are here to serve rather than to compete. Paramount is here for you, including and welcoming everyone.

CATS auditions here today at The Elks!

More about that next week. Meow!

Love & thanks,

Jim