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On Stage

What Will It Take For Straight Theatre To Thrive?

Jerry Fritchman
Wichita Center For the Arts

The loss of Center Theatre at the Wichita Center for the Arts is not simply a loss for the theatre community, nor is it not merely a personal loss—I met my husband there—it also represents a larger problem for straight theatre in the city.

Straight theatre, of course, is simply theatre that relies on dialogue, rather than song. Over the summer, a friend posed a question to me: why is there no professional repertory theatre company in Wichita? The Wichita Grand Opera serves the community, as does Music Theatre Wichita. Certainly there is no lack of talent in the city. For many, Center Theatre was the closest version of professional straight theatre available. What remains are largely volunteer organizations.

I thought it was an interesting question, so I asked around. It wasn't scientific, by any means. I asked people I knew: not just those inside the theatre world, the theatre-makers, but the theatre-goers, as well. What I found out could span several commentaries. What I came away with is the dream of one company of at least 25 solid, hard-working actors; resident directors with ideas and energy; student directors with mentors for experimental plays; professional playwrights workshops; a full crew and staff; and all of these positions paid to provide professional entertainment.

It is, perhaps, a pipe dream.

Theatre was once alive with ideas—playwrights were considered dangerous by governments, and the performance of a provocative play could end in fisticuffs. Ennui is what should never happen.