“From the start, it has been the theatre’s business to entertain people…it needs no other passport than fun.” Bertolt Brecht, A Short Organum for the Theatre.
Two Gulf Coast natives are bringing the theatre to Pass Christian and calling thespians of all ages to action.
Dr. William J. Koolsbergen, Artistic Director and Larry Rogers Managing Director of the Pass Christian Theatre Project attended last Friday’s Coffee with Friends at the library and spoke about their upcoming theatrical projects.
Rogers serves as managing director and is a Gulf Coast native, originally from New Orleans until his parents moved to Bay St. Louis.
“I lived in New York for about 30 years,” Rogers said. “Before I left for New York, I worked in a New Orleans little theatre.
“In New York I was vice-president of Citibank in marketing and sales.”
Rogers taught business communications at City University in New York for five years.
“I took over managing a small medical practice in New York,” Rogers said, “which I still manage today.
“Then we decided to retire a little early and come home and we’re very excited about getting this project off the ground.”
Koolsbergen, a Pass Christian native, serves as artistic director.
Koolsbergen has an A.A. in English from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, a B.A. from Milsaps College, a M.A. in Drama and Communications from LSU, a M.F.A. in Directing from UNO, a M. Phil. and Ph. D from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and is professor emeritus of City University.
“I taught theatre there for 25 years,” Koolsbergen said. “Most of that time, I ran a program training young actors, specializing in the freshman and sophomore group.
“I did on average five or six shows a year, so in the course of that time I directed well over 100 shows.”
Koolsbergen started out as an actor, performed work off-Broadway and has numerous television and film credits.
“My focus was always to be a director,” Koolsbergen said. “I love that, by definition, the director is the first audience member.
“The director is the first one to read that play and then visualize what that play should be and then pick the actors and designers and guide them through to bring that vision to fruition.”
The first project for the group, is one that originated right here in Pass Christian.
“Scenic Drive was written by Trey Fayard, a local playwright,” Koolsbergen said. “It’s a murder mystery and comedy and a very clever, fun play.
“It is set in Pass Christian with many local references and it was written for the Randolph Center.”
The Randolph Center has a theatrical story of its own.
It was the city’s first African-American public school.
The center was established in the late 1800s, rebuilt in 1928 as Harrison County Training School for Colored and the name was changed to Randolph.
After Hurricane Camille, the school opened as Pass Christian Middle School.
The school closed in 2000 and the district donated it to the city.
After Hurricane Katrina, the center was considered for demolition.
A group of school alumni, city leaders and others fought to save the building and it is now used as a senior citizen and community center.
The play is about a playwright, his wife, their crime solving housekeeper and a philandering politician.
Auditions for Scenic Drive will be held on Thursday April 10 at 6 p.m. or Saturday April 12 at noon at the Randolph Center at 320 Clark Street.
There are seven characters in the play and ages range from the mid 20’s to about 60 years old.
“Normally I do cold auditions,” Koolsbergen said. “This time, because we are all really new to one another, I want everyone who auditions to come prepared with a one-to-three minute speech from a contemporary comedy.
“You can choose a play, T.V. or film script. You do not need to memorize, you can read. I want to see how you can handle contemporary comedic lines.”
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, September.
The Lion in Winter, December.
After the Rain, March 2015.
House of Blue Leaves, June 2015.
“This summer, we will hold both youth and adult acting workshops for free leading to You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” Koolsbergen said. “This musical will have both a youth and adult cast.
“This is what’s it’s all about, bringing this community together.”
For more information, contact Koolsbergen and Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 228-206-0857.