When The Bethany Stage launched last summer, it quickly became a spotlight on the city’s growing arts and performance community. In its first year, The Bethany Stage has hosted three productions and two recitals and expanded to include performance classes for youths at its new downtown Bethany studio.
“It’s been shocking to know how quickly things are growing, and in just one year,” said company founder Audra Faust.
Faust graduated from Southern Nazarene University (SNU) in Bethany and now teaches there. She also completed a master’s degree in opera performance at Boston Conservatory.
Faust directed several musicals at SNU and launched The Bethany Stage primarily as a way for her students to have another outlet for performing. She soon found that the company attracted people from all over the state and of all acting levels.
In its first season, the company performed Pride and Prejudice, Much Ado About Nothing and A Christmas Carol. One of the biggest challenges has been finding a permanent venue. However, it recently moved into a studio space at 3930 N. College Ave. in Bethany, where it offers youth classes in acting, musical theater, voice and dance. Classes include creative movement for 3- and 4-year-olds and Dance With Me, designed for kids 1 and a half to 3 years old, as well as several classes for students up to 12th grade. The Bethany Stage also offers several musical theater classes for homeschooled students.
The classes provide local youth opportunities to explore creative interests and learn life skills and basic tools that will help them with everything from job interviews to building confidence, Faust said.
“It teaches how to interact with other people and how to have good social skills and how to present yourself in a very positive way,” she said.
Faust believes this is the first time Bethany has had its own theater company, and she said it’s a much-needed addition to the city’s growing arts and festival scene. The community has rallied behind it as well, as evidenced when she recently spoke at a local Kiwanis meeting and several members asked about the next Christmas show. When she revealed she hadn’t yet found a venue, local school district representatives offered their facilities.
Faust also said theater provides participants with a sense of purpose and commonality. Some of the students and actors can be teenagers without the means to drive into larger cities for classes and auditions, and others might be in their 70s and have always wanted to perform but never had the opportunity. Castmembers come together for potluck dinners, and Faust said older and more experienced members often take younger ones under their wing.
“My whole goal is that people come and they experience a positive environment, a positive learning environment that encourages them in the arts,” Faust said.
Upcoming productions include The Importance of Being Earnest, which opens in September; a Christmas production; Romeo and Juliet in February; and possibly 2018 summer stock shows.
Print headline: Center Stage, A Bethany theater gives aspiring actors of all ages and experience levels a place to hone their craft.