By Emily Williams
Though establishing a successful local theater has seemed a slow process to Kyle Bass, the Homewood Theatre is looking forward to its third season with a new strength.
“A comment that we get a lot is people saying that they didn’t even know Homewood had a theater,” Bass said. “One of the hardest parts about this process has been getting the word out and letting people know that we are here.”
Though the dream is a brick-and-mortar place to call its home, the theater has had no small amount of success operating out of Bass’ home in Edgewood and performing at The Dance Foundation.
After a sold-out season last year, the theater will be showcasing five shows throughout the season – one more than last year – and adding a fourth performance for each show, all to give the people what they want while also reaching out to more individuals.
Bass’ goal for the theater in its first year was to hone its message.
“We did a little bit of everything, just to see what people liked,” Bass said. “We had a cabaret performance with Bill Bugg, we had a couple of plays and we even brought in Ugly Baby, which is a comedic, improv group.”
Last year, Bass said, his team settled into its routine and found a way to give the people what they wanted with a mix of the familiar and the new played out on the stage.
“We did ‘Barefoot in the Park,’ which was a bit bigger for us since you’re talking about a Neil Simon play – who just recently passed. But our cast had some really interesting ideas in order to put their own spin on it,” he said.
Another great success was “Always a Bridesmaid,” from Jones Hope Wooten playwrights, who used to write for The Golden Girls. The reception inspired Bass and his team to add performances of “Funny Little Thing Called Love” to the schedule this year. The show will run from Oct. 25-28 and will feature some new faces.
“For this show we decided to do an open casting,” Bass said. “Some of the actors are new to the stage, some are new to town and some maybe don’t have much experience.”
It’s a tactic that Bass said he is excited to see in action and hopes to see more in the future, providing the space for members of the community to perform.
“I’d love for us to create partnerships and reach out to students at Samford or even high school students in Homewood and have them work with us,” he said.
Partnerships With Others
That’s not to say that the Homewood Theatre’s stage will be void of professionals. In fact, one of the hallmarks of the theater’s mission is to maintain a strong relationship with the community of theaters in Birmingham.
“I believe that, when it comes to theater, a rising tide lifts all boats,” he said, adding that everyone in the local theater community seems to be experiencing a trend of supporting each other, with performers working on various stages.
“Back in the day, that wasn’t the case. You would see someone perform at one theater and they would pretty much stick to that one and wouldn’t go anywhere else,” he said.
Bass sees an opportunity to share the wealth with other theaters, especially smaller ones like his, by providing information on upcoming performances at other theaters to their audiences. The theater has already established a strong partnership with Terrific New Theatre downtown.
Another great resource for Bass has been his own presence as a performer. Having graced the stage at Virginia Samford Theatre a number of times, Bass has been able to call on director Jack Mann as a resource. In fact, Mann will be directing the 2018-19 season’s final production of “The World Goes Round,” a musical revue.
There’s room for everyone, according to Bass, and when Homewood Theatre was established, it was to fill a need rather than introduce competition.
“People who go to the theater aren’t just going to see one show a year,” he said.
The need that Homewood Theatre fills is a place that is easily accessible to the surrounding community and offers smaller shows, the off-Broadway types, which Bass said often help pique the interest of audience members who are new to watching live theater.
“Not everyone can make it downtown to see a show,” Bass said, and that is part of its mission to be as accessible as possible while delivering the best form of entertainment to serve the audience, performers and the people working behind the scenes or volunteering.
First, it packs in a variety of shows for a variety of age groups. The theater workers like to keep prices low, with tickets at $15 and a Students in Seats program that offers students a chance to get a free ticket.
According to Bass, this was inspired by his experiences getting front-row seats to heavy-hitting shows in New York City like “Book of Mormon” for next to nothing through the rush ticket lottery.
Second, the shows are kept on the smaller side so that performers, those backstage and volunteers aren’t swamped with intense rehearsals. It also allows people who want to perform but have jobs or obligations that take up much of their day-to-day life to find a space to get on the stage.
An Easy Location
Finally, it’s location, location, location. For many people, Bass said, especially those living farther out in Hoover or North Shelby County, getting downtown is a trial. Getting from dinner to a show to a bar inevitably requires more driving and re-parking.
“Not to mention, us men, we aren’t always the best at the planning that goes into a date night,” Bass said. “If you park at SoHo Square, you have a bunch of places you can walk to for dinner, then you can walk to the Dance Foundation for a show and then afterwards walk over to Jackson’s for drinks. You never have to move your car.”
As the theater reaches out further into the community and establishes itself as a fixture in the community, Bass sees great things for the future.
Largely, that means enough success to afford its own space.
“The Dance Foundation is an amazing place and they have been so good to us, but we are largely a mobile operation,” Bass said, noting that the theater’s growing costume closet is tucked away at his home, which also serves as the rehearsal space.
Plans to Grow
In the nearer future, he hopes to reach more children and students in the community.
“We’ve had a lot of people asking us if we have a children’s camp,” Bass said, which struck him as a fantastic idea. He hopes to be able to offer something like a spring break camp as a jumping off point.
Last but not least, Bass hopes to add more shows of the cabaret variety.
“Hopefully, at some point, we can establish some form of cabaret series that we do throughout the year,” Bass said, with an option to purchase season tickets to the series outside of season tickets to larger performances, Bass said.
In the meantime, what is happening now is good community theater and, hopefully, another sold-out year for Homewood Theatre.
For more information and tickets, visit homewoodtheatre.com.