A relatively new theater company in Norman is excited about its spring and summer season.
Already in its season, Co.llective Arts Productions (Co.Arts) will host two full productions over the next two months, as well as several staged readings.
Five students and alumni of the University of Oklahoma School of Drama – Morgan J. Simon, Alleese Eldridge, Tony Wilkinson, Diego De La Espriella and Audrey Armacost – founded the professional theater company in February 2021.
Simon, Artistic Director and Chairman of the Board, said the current production team includes himself, Eldridge, Wilkinson and Lauren Linsey. Armacost, which moved to another city, still sits on the board, and Espriella contributed to one of Co.Arts’ productions this season, “Palo Verde.”
The company’s season kicked off May 9 with staged readings of Devin Ricklef’s “American Realism,” a guided tour through the mythology of the abusive male archetype in American media, and Taylor’s “Sapphicana.” Yancey, a series of vignettes and musical interludes on the experience and identity of queer women in the South.
The complete production “Bro?” by Tad Broadbent will be played at 8 p.m. June 9-11 and 11 p.m. June 10 at the E. Frank Gilson Lab Theater, a 61-seat black box theater in the former UO Science Hall.
The play, starring five actors and lasting just over an hour with intermission, is a psychedelic comedy starring best friends and twenty-somethings Charles and Kile as they set out to explore self.
The complete production of Michael Darmon’s “The Process” premieres at 8 p.m. July 21-23 at the Gilson Lab Theater.
The play, featuring six actors and lasting two hours with intermission, is about 28-year-old Noah, who is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and posts a message on Facebook inviting others to come. to visit him.
Both plays are most appropriate for mature audiences and cost $10 general admission and $5 student admission.
The theater company will also host a free “Ten Minute Reading Festival” during the Second Friday Art Walk on July 8, which will include 10-minute play readings from local and national authors.
The season will conclude with free staged readings at 8 p.m. on August 12 and 13 at the Sooner Theater studio of “Palo Verde,” a new musical created by Anne Heintz, Raul Rivera Pun, Espriella and Marissa Garcia on the seasoned Aurora teacher who encourages others to learn. The show is rated PG, but the content is intended for adults.
Simon said selections and cast are determined by producers each year through Oklahoma bidding and casting calls, and five plays this season were produced by OU School of Theater alumni.
He said the group was founded after a group of OU drama students and alumni decided to have another professional theater in the Oklahoma City metro area to nurture talent. local to stay local.
“We were aiming to create a company that could create new work and create places for these artists to find artistic homes without having to relocate,” said Simon, who graduated from the OU School of Drama last week.
He described working for the small business as very rewarding.
“It’s a lot of work for young artists, all with more full-time day jobs to follow. We challenge each other a lot,” he said. “We are very ambitious in everything we do, as it is important to us to create as many opportunities as possible for new pieces to be produced and for more artists to work with us in the region.”
Currently, the society is funded 100% by public donations and ticket sales to help cover artists’ stipends, materials, equipment and associated expenses.
Simon said Co.Arts has applied for 501©(3) nonprofit status, which is pending approval, and hopes to apply for local and state loans in 2023. The first year of the venture was largely crowd-funded, including personal donations from some producers. . The operating budget was $4,000.
He said fundraising efforts for each season begin on the first of each year. In 2021, the company raised just over $4,000.
So far this year, they’ve raised $6,000 of their $10,000 goal. Simon said Co.Arts is planning a few more fundraising efforts this summer to help achieve that goal, including a reception following “Palo Verde” performances.
This season, Simon said Co.Arts has been able to increase the amount of stipends for artists and schools in the metropolitan area where the artists come from, to show artists that “not only can they create work fulfilling and great in Oklahoma, but they can also earn a living wage for doing so.
Additionally, Simon expressed his thanks to the OU and the Sooner Theater for allowing the outpatient company to practice inside their facilities.
Going forward, he said the company plans to continue to grow, work with more emerging and early-career artists, create as many new theaters in Norman as possible, and eventually open their own performance space. theater so that they can be even more rooted in the Norman community. .
“Supporting local art and artists puts money directly into the pockets of these artists to continue working in Oklahoma and contributing to the arts ecosystem here,” Simon said. “Our mission at Co.Arts is to contribute to an ecosystem where Oklahoma artists export more work to the world than we import to Oklahoma. Every ticket and donation we receive enables these artists to build an arts home in Oklahoma.