By Richard S. Gubbe
Christopher Brady has had many big auditions before, but none more challenging as taking over as director of the Theatre Arts Park at Rock Valley College. As often as he’s had to audition for big parts, the role he’s playing now will be his hardest to pull off.
Brady inherits a job held for 32 years by Mike Webb, who built the indoor and outdoor theatre programs high enough to pull off the hardest of endeavors, and before him, Ted Bacino, who got things rolling before the arts were a part the culture in the Rock River Valley. But not only does Brady have to live up to two local legends, he faces a program besieged by budget cuts. While having to address the creative side, he has to address the business side. The college cut the indoor program last year while the outdoor Starlight program exists under heavy financial scrutiny.
“I look forward to the challenge of turning it around,” Brady told The Rock River Times. “It may be a bad moment in its history but this is a great place,” he said. “I have creative ways to remedy the situation.”
The Brady plan includes a shift in the creative process.
“I am really going to apply the community aspect of community theater,” he said. “I have my own artistic philosophy and I will create the best art and story on stage with a community approach. I’m sure I will do things that I fail at and I will learn from that.”
By that, he means more input from cast members.
“I don’t worry about perception,” Brady said, who in his early 30s, has youth on his side. His plan involves getting more actors involved in the creative process during rehearsals.
“We will be working in teams,” he said. “I’m not always the smartest person in the room. The more creative people that you have around you, the more ideas you will get. Then I will go with the best idea.“
Brady, who came over from West Junior High School, won’t be teaching theater classes in the spring. The revival of the theater programs begins in the fall. The man who starred as Jean Valjean in the colossal performance of Les Miserables knows all about the talent pool he has to choose from. He hopes that those who opposed Webb’s structured style will return to audition for the summer schedule.
Brady said he learned a lot from Webb after working with him often.
“Mike and I are fine as far as a relationship,” Brady said.
But Brady wants to carve out his own path and still keep actors who made past years a success.
“I feel confident in creating a following,” he said “This area is chock-full of talent but they don’t always come out,” Brady said. “I hope everyone feels comfortable to come back. I want them to feel welcome back into Starlight and this is a great place to perform. There’s a lot of family here, the Starlight family, and that is a great place to start from.”
Brady inherits a set lineup of summer shows of Beauty and the Beast, Peter and the Star Catcher, Sister Act, and Godspell.
“The season is great but I wish I had more time before auditions in March,” he said. He said he won’t be changing the show structure but hopes to reach out to the community to keep the flow of talent coming. Brady plans to go into public schools to interact with future actors and bring students to RVC in for workshops.
“We will develop and foster and give them the opportunity to shine and that is what a community theater can do,” he said. “We also need to service our college kids and see them more in Starlight shows.”
If he can last as long as Webb, he will be retirement age.
“I foresee myself here for a very long time if they’ll have me,” he said.