He is also the known as the winningest director in the state of West Virginia when it comes to theatre competitions for high school students as well as for community theatre. He formed this new theatrical company earlier this year and manages it in addition to teaching secondary school and directing his student's theatre projects.
Q: Why did you form Art Effects Productions?
Jim: I wanted the opportunity to bring educational experiences to theatre audiences that they may never have the opportunity to experience otherwise. The theatrical experience is so very brief in nature, so fragile, and so impermanent, that it becomes my goal, in some way, to have audiences leave the theatre and reflect, enjoy, and yes, even wallow in the experience.
Q: What are you looking for in your first season as a new theatrical company?
Jim: I've been directing theatre for both students and community theatre for many many years. I've put all of my years of experience and dedication into the selection of a season I feel will challenge the actors and technicians in all aspects of production and at the same time provide a quality theatrical experience for our audiences.
Q: Some of the plays on your schedule are not the typical community theatre fare. How did you decide what plays you would do?
Jim: I look at plays I've wanted to direct, but haven't yet. I look at the quality of the writing. I look at whether or not I can actually cast a show. And I look for quality and diversity in a season. My goal is to present comedy, drama, experimental works, new plays and new playwrights, classic playwrights. And as for my choices not being "typical," that may be so. There may be some things on our schedule that don't fit someone's particular definition of "entertainment," but the performance will still promise to be thought-provoking and of high quality.
For example, our first show of this season was Pterodactyls. It is a comedy, albeit a very dark one, contemporary, and it may not be "typical" for a community theatre group to take on, but we still had good and responsive audiences. We made very sure they knew the controversial nature of the content before they bought their tickets. But people still came to see it and the response since has been very positive.
Q: You use the word "quality" quite a bit. How do you determine quality in theatre?
Jim: An audience only spends a brief few hours with us. Their theatre experience should be a memorable one. It should touch them emotionally, make them think, cause them to reflect on their own lives. Hopefully, everytime people come to see one of our theatrical productions, our work will touch them in some way that's different from any other form of entertainment they see. They pay money for this. I hope that they take home something more than they came with even if only on a subconscious level.
Of course, people come through the doors of a theatre for a myriad of reasons and it's impossible to be all things to all people. But Art Effects will endeavor to bring audiences the kind of excellence that will make them want to come back again and again.
And we are bringing a variety of programs with this first full season. Pterodactyls was dark comedy and very contemporary. The program we have scheduled for December is very different from that -- two one-actor shows that are of a much more literary and artistic nature. We'll be doing a musical revue in March and, then, the next show is an historical unsolved mystery -- the Lizzie Borden case. That script and OF FRECKLED HUMAN NATURE are both new -- and, I believe, never before produced -- plays by Jean Battlo. Her writing is exceptional and the roles she creates for actors are challenging which, as I mentioned earlier, is one of the things I look at when choosing the plays that I do. We finish the season with Sam Shepard, who many consider to be America's greatest living playwright.
Q: So, it looks like you've got social commentary, literature, art, music, mystery, and drama this season. What are your plans for future seasons?
Jim: I want to continue to challenge and stretch actors and technicians with the plays we do -- move toward theatrical excellence. I also want to do more educational workshops. Maybe do some public readings of new plays by new playwrights. The possiblities are endless.
Jim Walker - Art Effects artistic director