“Every place needs to be taken care of,” remarks Brian Davis artistic director of Theatre Tallahassee. “That’s the thrill and reward of working in the nonprofit world. You are responsible for keeping an organization going.”
Because the theater is now in its 70th season, Davis wonders what the original founders would think of how he has cared for it, as well as its trajectory and impact in the city. This season he directed “Leading Ladies,” which opens June 6th and will run until June 23rd. While working on the comedy, Davis explains the delicate balance that must be struck when building a season.
“Every season we get in one or two shows that aren’t the blockbuster hits, but will preserve the creativity of the theater,” says Davis. “You have to have theater that challenges people.”
Davis says theater fit his “goofy personality” while he was a student. He was involved with a local theater group as a creative consultant after college, but stepped away from the field for nearly 15 years. He returned to it after moving to Tallahassee.
Davis volunteered for the Tallahassee Museum’s Halloween Howl as an actor and make-up artist. Each subsequent year, he built the haunted trail before serving as the Tallahassee Museum’s membership manager. Davis’ training in sound engineering and broadcast radio lent itself to running a soundboard for Theatre Tallahassee. The following season he directed “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and eventually he took on the role of artistic director.
“I got dragged back into theater,” jokes Davis. “All my odd jobs fit together and made sense from that point on. I could be a manager, be creative and work in theater.”
Davis acknowledges his indirect path to his current position — working for the IRS, answering calls as a 911 operator, stocking warehouse trucks, creating content for a booming Internet start-up. Each skill set brought him closer to a career in the arts, which ultimately aids in running the theater.
As a director, he prefers taking on the smaller, less mainstream shows. Last year’s “Constellations,” was a unique challenge. The stripped down play doesn’t use elaborate sets or props. Instead, it relies heavily upon the two actors that make up the entire cast.
“Every show is like a child,” says Davis. “You’re going to see how that kid grows up in the next six weeks, and every child turns out a little bit different. I enjoy any show where I get the chance to go a little outside of the boundaries of a normal production.”
This season’s “Leading Ladies” presented an opportunity for Davis to direct his favorite genre: farce. The show follows a case of mistaken identities as two soon-to-be unemployed Shakespearean actors attempt to pull off a major scam.
Set in the 1950s, the actors read a want ad written by an older woman looking to give her long-lost cousins their inheritance. It isn’t until they arrive at her home that they realize they need to be two women, not men.
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