Three Dallas theater pros are determined to make classic works relevant to today's audiences with their new company, The Classics Theatre Project. The group, which will mount 19th and 20th century plays in a way that modern crowds will find accessible, is founded by Gregory Patterson, Joey Folsom, and Bren Rapp.
Here's why you might know those names:
- Patterson was a longtime presence at WaterTower Theatre, capping his 40-year career in nonprofit arts management as the Addison organization's managing director. At Classics, he'll serve as executive director.
- Folsom is an acclaimed actor, producer, and director, known for tackling difficult roles and delivering raw performances. He'll serve as artistic director.
- Rapp is one of the driving forces behind Fun House Theatre and Film, the youth company that churned out several of the area's best young actors (including current Nickelodeon star Lizzy Green and Rapp's own son, Doak). She'll serve as producing managing director.
Most recently, Patterson and Rapp helped get a script by Fun House co-founder Jeff Swearingen to Off Broadway, with a presentation in New York. Rapp and Folsom toured Dallas, Chicago, and Los Angeles with the one-man show Lenny Bruce is Back.
The new company stresses that it's not just for the theatrically savvy, but will focus on finding what is universal in great works and presenting them as publicly viable entertainment. That includes audiences rediscovering them or newcomers seeing them for the first time, and there is also talk of educational outreach.
"As with all things in life, learning from the past is essential to how we move forward, whether that's listening to the lessons history teaches us or reflecting on the inspiration of great artists." says Patterson. "The classics are the foundation upon which all great pieces of theater find their inspiration, and these works time and time again have proven to have far-reaching relevance."
The nonprofit group's first production will be an adaptation by local actor/playwright Ben Schroth of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, running June 22-July 14 at the Trinity River Arts Center. The goal is mount three productions in its first year.
"What you have in the leadership of this company are people who have the experience, reputation, and track record ... to launch the project at a starting point it takes some organizations a few years to get to," says Rapp. "That is exciting when at the core is a shared respect, reverence, and desire to honor the classic works that formed each of our, and many others', interest in the arts."