From Jarrod Kopp, Executive Director
Was Theatre Tulsa’s 96th season one of our best ever? Let’s think about it…
We kicked off last summer with three major projects on our plate. We produced an interactive “Shakespereience” based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream at AHHA, performed free as our gift to Tulsa. Then we trained nearly 100 students from our summer Theatre Tulsa Academy program in dance, acting and singing to performed Seussical Jr. (with the younger actors) and Hairspray (with the teens) at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. Finally, we kicked off our Broadway Series with the Tulsa local premiere of Disney’s Newsies.
Newsies is a HARD show to do. It requires triple-threat performers (singers, dancers, actors) for the leads, and an ensemble of gifted dancers. We knew Tulsa was up to the challenge. Thousands agreed. Under Sara Phoenix’s direction, our production of Newsies was a finalist for the Best of Tulsa awards for Best Performance in Tulsa. It’s competition? Jack White at Driller Stadium, U2 at the BOK Center, and Wicked by a Broadway-touring company. Yes Tulsa, you were compared to some of the greatest talent in the world!
We next delivered a loud and proud run of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in a special partnership with Oklahomans for Equality, becoming the first full-length production in its new Lynn Riggs Theatre.
All of this alone would qualify a successful season, but we were just getting started. We enchanted thousands of fans of all ages with a blockbuster 4-week run of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. We thought Newsies was tough. Oooh boy, this show was, pardon the cliche, a beast. But our magnificent cast turned this beast of a production into a beauty of a performance. This is what we call a “gateway show,” and we’re so proud to have inspired thousands of new theatre-goers. We hope they’ll be avid local arts supporters for years to come. What filled us with the most pride was seeing the beaming faces of all the little kids leaving the theater, many of whom came dressed as Princess Belle or their favorite characters. We also offered wands, tiaras and roses, as well as a picture with Princess Belle herself, Margaret Stall, raising thousands of dollars for our educational scholarships in the process. So this show truly made dreams come true. The entire cast of this show went beyond the stage, giving generously of their time and talent to make the magic of theatre come to life for so many in our community. We are so grateful.
Two of Theatre Tulsa’s most popular performers, Mark Frie and Tabitha Littlefield, gave some of their best work as Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. The show’s director, Vern Stefanic, is a dear friend and frequent collaborator of ours, and a local theatre treasure. His exciting vision for the show breathed new life into a classic, and reminded audiences why he remains, decades into his career, one of Tulsa’s freshest voices.
And of course, who can forget our 80s retro rock musical The Wedding Singer? Our audiences told us it was the funniest show of the season, with clever lyrics and hilarious sight gags wrapped up in a touching rom com underdog story.
To top off the season, we gave Tulsa its first local production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. With David Blakely’s masterful direction and the casts’ unbelievable performances, this show was a powerful experience for those who came to see it. The show’s star, Know Blakely, gave an extraordinary look into the mind of a young man living with autism. He’s only a teenager and gave one of Tulsa local theatre’s best performances ever, so we look forward to saying “we knew him when.” Some say Tulsans don’t see plays, only musicals. Not true. By the end of the run, the shows were nearly selling out, and several audience members claimed it was the best play this city had seen in several years. Just a few weeks after that highly-successful achievement, the Tulsa Awards for Theatre Excellence gave this production it’s highest award: Outstanding Production of the year. The show also won individual awards for David Blakely for Outstanding Directing, as well as Knox Blakely and Karlena Riggs in the category of Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role.
So was our 96th season our most successful ever? No. Our 97th will be. And our 98th. And on and on, as long as Tulsans continue to bestow us the honor of serving.
We just added two full-time employees to our team: Mandy Gross as Costume Shop Manager, and Olivia Martin as Development Director. And while our long-time Production Manager, Melissa Sparks, is leaving, we can say “until we meet again” with a heavy heart and lots of pride — she’s pursuing her MFA at Columbia University in NYC! As far as she’ll go (and she’ll go far), we’ll always be proud she spent so much time serving us.