March 27th is recognized as World Theatre Day. It's one of those silly holidays people participate in like National Cheesecake Day, or Crazy Sock Day. Ironically, we are one of those silly people. I truly believe there is no harm in celebrating the simple joys in life. If national random holidays be silly, let me silly on!
The past few days we have been thinking about our beginnings. Do you ever stop to think about every turning point in your life? Each bump, every crossroad, and all the stops? Only to be left in wonder about what seemed so endless that, inevitably, took a turn to your final destination. That's what we've been thinking about.
These thoughts help us to think about you. Yes, you! You may have read about the new page we're turning in our company. If you haven't, where have you been?! Just kidding ;)
Basically, we're really just trying to open up a more adult-centered environment for our audience. Because, while many of you reading this may have kids (or don't!), we're all adults here.
We're not speaking directly to your kids, we're speaking to you. And while your family is incredibly important to us-- YOU matter, too!
Can I get real for a second? We've had a ton of learning curves in the past seven months. With our first year anniversary looming, we've had so much joy as a starter company. It hasn't always been that way for our little family. We just want to say how incredibly grateful we are for this community.
You may not believe this, but Justice and I didn't necessarily grow up in the performing arts like many of our colleagues. We never even stepped foot into a Drama class until our freshman year of high school. Throughout the years, we've grown our craft and have spent many hours philosophizing our own ideals of what and how theatre should be.
We have always known our 'why'. From the moment we began getting serious in our relationship, we both knew we wanted to own a theatre company. That company was envisioned to be a space of welcome. It would be wholesome, warm, rich in educational offerings and provide endless inspiration.
It has not been easy. Like all dreams, they don't work unless you do! (I felt like one of those 90s motivational classroom posters just now)
We've struggled for all eight of those years. 8/8, total banner years. It took a lot of perseverance to get through those years. We've dealt with the loss of my mother, homelessness, young parenthood, let-downs on big dreams, depression, marriage struggles, and this past year -- we almost lost Justice.
Justice got very sick this past summer. He kept complaining of not being able to breathe right -- as if something were stuck in his throat. But we blew it off. He has a history of throat, chest, and lung problems. It turns out that the air particles he was breathing in from his job in the oil field was making him very sick. We didn't know this at the time.
He came home one one day, looking and feeling horrible. He went to lie down for a nap. I went to check on him; he couldn't open his mouth. I took him to the ER and they found large cysts closing his airways. He couldn't breathe on his own. They kept him in ICU for two days. It was the scariest and most uncertain moment of our marriage.
Before this happened, we wanted to wait three more years to start our company. But Justice had to quit his job after this; he would continue to get sick if he continued to work there due to the air particles from the plant. There were no open positions for transfer. I had just begun my job as Drama teacher at Wilson Elementary. We thought we would make it on my salary alone.
We would, in fact, not make it. I kept looking around at everyone else who was living our dream... and you know what? We thought, "No more." We were going to do this. We were going to make it work. Even if we had to run it out of our home, scrimp, and struggle. (Which we do -- for now).
At the beginning, we were just going to do one show. One show to raise funds while we did some traveling education.
We decided to craft a simple show based around our values: family, classic literature, educational. We have a good family friend who runs the Harn Homestead. Hmm... what could be a good show to fit an agrarian, warm, and homey setting? We immediately thought of A.A. Milne's version of Winnie the Pooh. It was the perfect time of year: autumn, right on the cusp of winter. We would create a play revolving around grown-up Christopher Robin, his memories, and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood amidst a backdrop of fluent seasons.
We loved that show. It was fun to work on from beginning to end. We had a great response from it; we also realized that puppets were pretty fun to make. Then we went for Frozen.
I'll just be honest: we hated Frozen. It wasn't us. It didn't represent our values as a company. It wasn't what we wanted to do.
But we were offered Old Moore High School's auditorium to perform in. The lights are minimal here; there is no sound. The space is fairly limited. But it is gorgeous inside. We wanted to do something festive. We thought Frozen would be a fun choice as the new movie was just coming out. We could tie it to Norwegian Christmas traditions! We could make it elegant!
Little did we know that everyone and their dog would have this idea. Especially another local company who ripped off our idea, performed it on the same day, at the same time, for the same ticket price. And advertised for two weeks for it after we had announced it over a month prior. We should have just "let it go".
There was no way we could back out. It ended up fine. We'll be real with you: it wasn't our best work. It was not Da Vinci; it was finger paint.
We were disappointed and a little embarrassed. Why? Because we know we can do better! We know we can offer you and your family a higher quality experience!
This is why we made our statement a few days ago about the new direction of our company. We don't want to confuse you. We will continue creating family-friendly shows (similar to "Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood"), but we will be broadening our vision. Our why is to involve you in the rich depictions of stories that you can't get anywhere else.
In addition to this, more than anything, we want this company to be just as much our company... as it is your company.
When you think of us, we hope it brings a smile to your face. We hope you think of us as your neighbors. We hope you and your family feels valued and seen as a person-- not just another customer, or number. We hope your worldview might be challenged a little. We hope in the future when you come through our studio doors you feel that you're participating in things that make you feel, and work, and grow. We hope you feel that we are just as much a part of your story, as we are of yours.
We look forward to serving you with brighter vision, warm hearts, and open arms when this storm has passed. We will get through this and come out stronger than before.
All our light and love,
Brenna Betz and Justice Wickstrom