Originating with Aesop, the words found themselves in the modern vernacular as one of the United Statesâ€™ many mottos that inspire unity and collaboration. The words have staying power because they are usually indisputably true. Individuals or individual organizations rarely succeed entirely on their own. Looking out for oneâ€™s own best interests may work to an extent, but itÂ often causes others to suffer and eventually depletes resources for everyone. One must go for their own best interests but also for the best interests of the group; itâ€™s the only way to succeed in the long run. Itâ€™s a sound economic principle and has far-reaching applications. One of those applications is, possibly, the Louisville theatre community.
On Sunday, November 29, The Bardâ€™s Town hosted an open call to all Louisville theatre artists in an attempt to bring the Theatre Alliance of Louisville â€“ or TAL â€“ out of abeyance. Over 60 artists were in attendance, and consequently, the upstairs space at The Bardâ€™s Town was jam-packed with talent, ideas, people and energy. From Pandora Productions, Louisvilleâ€™s LGBT theatre company to Teatro Tercera Llamada, Louisvilleâ€™s budding Spanish-speaking theatre company, there was a wide swath of companies present. In fact, if the theatre company is based in Louisville, it seems safe to say that there was a representative present at the meeting. Actors, playwrights, directors, producers, set designers, dancers and even fight choreographers all came to have their unique voices heard. It was an inspiring sight to behold.
Liz Fentress is a local theatre veteran and wearer of many hats as actor, playwright and director. She also serves as a theatre consultant for the Kentucky Arts Councilâ€™s Peer Advisory Network. It was in that capacity, pro bono, that Fentress led the meeting. Also present in a leadership capacity were the founding members of TAL: Kathi Ellis of Looking for Lillith, Michael Drury of Pandora Productions, Gil Reyes of Theatre  and J.C. Nixon of Louisville Repertory Company.
The goals of the meeting were to discuss TALâ€™s history, its current state of affairs, ideas for its future and a call to action to bring those ideas â€“ or at least some of themâ€“ to fruition. For those unfamiliar with the organization, TAL began some 10 years ago as an attempt to foster cross-promotion as well as the sharing of resources for local community and semi-professional theatre companies. Unified auditions also took place, so that actors and technical theatre artists new to the area or long dormant could display their work to as many companies as possible.
As the years went on, TAL sort of died a natural death as different roles and responsibilities were not passed on and certain activities no longer proved useful. This attempt at reinvigoration, however, could not have been met with a more enthusiastic crowd. Many ideas such as a database of local talent, a directory of resources, a calendar of productions and even a centralized location for workshops â€“ an actorâ€™s gym if you will â€“ were thrown into the mix and discussed among attendees openly.
At meetingâ€™s end, several individuals stepped forward to have a second, more focused meeting to begin the arduous task of delineating the restructure and future of TAL: how the organization will be organized, which of the wonderful ideas presented on Sunday should be deemed a priority for the first year, etc. The originators of TAL wish to still be available as resources and guides, but at the same time, they want to pass the torch to a new group of local theatre leaders. Itâ€™s an exciting time for Louisvilleâ€™s theatre scene as well an uplifting perpetuation of the thought that people, individuals and organizations are stronger together than they are apart. VT