By NEAL APPELBAUM
Arts Center Executive Director
I want to share my biggest revelation since becoming Executive Director at the Arts Center: at any given time there is a show going through the audition process, another rehearsing, and third on stage. A new show is launched every month in the 235 seat Wilma Adams Theatre. Try that on Broadway!
There is a standing policy that at the end of the final performance of a specific show, the cast dismantles the set. It may be 10:30pm on a Saturday night or 5pm on Sunday when the set comes down. Regardless, the set must come down because the next show needs the stage cleared.
Logistics. It is all about logistics at the Arts Center. Operating a music record label, a craft shop, a huge craft fair, running a museum, a gallery, and hosting single night events on top of new theater productions each month takes an unbelievable amount of management and attention to detail.
It is the collective talents of the women at the Arts Center that make this cultural and community facility a reality. Scarlett Turney, Mary Wilson and Carol Reed have committed many years in a half employee/half volunteer capacity.
Scarlett Turney got involved 30 years ago shortly after moving from California. The impetus was the hope of meeting members of the community and making new friends. She recalls the pleasure of being in The Sound of Music, the first show in the newly renovated basement of the old Veteran's Memorial Gym. She played a nun and happened to be pregnant at the time with her son who has now just turned 31.
All three of her children have been on stage. Her daughter, Kathryn, has choreographed shows and teaches in our Summer Youth Conservatory. One of her favorite things about the Arts Center is getting people on stage for the first time and seeing their huge smile as the audience members shake hands with them after the show.
Scarlett has been on staff for the past 15 years and works part time. She is responsible for the School Matinee Season ( three shows per year for Elementary students) and booking and managing those field trips. She manages the Summer Youth Conservatory, directs one or two shows per year, maintains the costume and prop rooms, makes all programs and the season brochure, house manages, paint sets, build costumes and occasionally performs on stage - sometimes at the last minute for sick or injured actors.
"My job can be incredibly stressful as well as physically demanding but I love it," smiles Scarlett.
Mary Wilson came to the Arts Center in 1995 as Executive Assistant after spending over 14 years as a volunteer and member of the Board of Directors. She came to the Arts Center initially as a mom with young children seeking an interactive outlet for her kids. Over the years she has seen many families grow up together in the conservatory, theater and the craft shop.
It is the comradery with the women of the Center that has kept Mary involved so long. Mary's husband, Mitch, is currently serving on the Board. She handles the day to day fiscal management of the Arts Center including bookkeeping, membership services, ticketing, working with the Board, managing craft shop inventory, theater royalties, and music label royalties. For the past eighteen years Mary has coordinated all the activities concerning vendors and craft artists for the White Oak Craft Fair and the Christmas Bazaar. In her "off " hours, she enjoys performing in and directing shows at The Arts Center. "We all wear many hats here." Right now she is performing in Mornings At Seven, producing Sweeney Todd which opens in October, closing out the White Oak Craft Fair, and taking reservations for our Christmas Dinner Theatre event - "My Way": a Sinatra Holiday Bash.
Carol Reed is the "youngster" at the Arts Center having been on staff just 12 years. Prior to that she served on the Board and volunteered.
Her responsibilities include media and public relations, development and marketing, designing and coordinating all direct mailings and paid advertising and acting as liaison to state and regional tourism groups, writing grants, coordinating all marketing activities for the White Oak Craft Fair, acting as liaison for the Tennessee Department of State Charitable Solicitations , and coordinating all volunteer activities. And because that isn't enough, she generally produces one theatrical performance per year.
"What I would like people to know about the Arts Center is you don't have to be an actor or performer to be a valuable asset to your Arts Center family," shares Carol. For every actor or performer onstage, there are stage managers, light and sound people, costumers, prop people, set construction people, box office volunteers, and other volunteer opportunities too numerous to mention. "Everyone contributes and together we bring quality entertainment to our community at a price everyone can afford. What we have here is truly unique."
Carol's favorite thing is the intergenerational nature of the Center. Her husband, Mike, her children, and now her grandchildren are involved here. She has seen extended families get involved once the first family member gets a role. "Yes, they come as audience, but they are just as likely to build sets, sew costumes, and source props."
Scarlett, Mary, and Carol coordinate the many moving parts of the Arts Center. Thousands of unique individuals come through the doors each year to entertain, be entertained, to learn, to teach, to sell, to shop, to eat, to share with the community. The Arts Center continues to build a broad based Middle Tennessee family.