News - Curtains Up: Act Two for Factory Theatre

Curtains Up: Act Two for Factory Theatre

By Rachel Heston-Davis Curtains Up: Act Two for Factory Theatre

Lights dim on cue before a live audience on Sunday night. Upbeat music ushers in the announcer’s “retro-radio” voice. Broadcasting live from Greenville, Illinois, The Factory Theatre Hour is on the air.

With scripts in hand, actors poised before microphones tap their comedic reserves to voice the story of Hero Central. Laughter from the audience rewards and energizes their performance. Offstage, students from GC’s audio engineering program record the radio play complete with audience response and turn it into an internet podcast.

Just as old-time radio extended its reach over the airwaves, The Factory Theatre Hour reaches listeners on a wide spectrum through the internet. The broadcast is just one of several functions new to the theater since its recent shift to include community talent.

What caused this expansion of the Factory Theatre? An ironic brush with the chopping block.

Keeping It Relevant

A marked decline in the number of students majoring in theater, coupled with a Jes Adam Factory Theatre Hourcritical need for the College to trim its budget, compelled administrators to consider other options. It made little sense to keep a degree emphasis with tiny enrollment. Just when it looked like “curtains” for the Factory Theatre, a handful of students helped find another way.

“We realized we have created a family [at the theater]. We can’t just let everyone walk away without trying to do something,” remembers senior communication major Brittain Monroe. She and three other students approached GC administrators with a proposal for a fall 2014 show. They would pick a script, produce the show on a pea-sized budget and have local business owner Jes Adam ’08 (pictured above), a vocal champion for community theater, direct the show for free. Impressed by the grassroots creativity, administrators agreed.

“The show went really well and turned out profitable,” Adam says. An outpouring of community support from citizens, students and faculty confirmed that the College and community still wanted Factory Theatre shows. GC designated the Factory Theatre an extracurricular activity and hired Adam as its part-time director.

Community Theater

But one good show cannot a theater save. Adam knew they must keep warm bodies in the seats on a regular basis. He lined up a traditional schedule of fall and spring productions and new projects like one-act plays directed by students. He also opened casting calls to members of the community, a move that expanded “ownership” of the stage performances.

“The theater was worth saving because in a town like Greenville, there are more limited opportunities for citizens to witness or participate in something artistically focused,” Adam says.

Theater involvement appealed to Greenville resident Chris Borwick ’94, a veteran actor from the old-time radio project featured on campus radio station WGRN. Inspired by the style and podcast potential of audio theater, Borwick approached Adam about recording similar podcasts on the Factory Theatre stage before a live audience. They began The Factory Theatre Hour, a monthly live recording session that yields four podcasts, one released each week.

The Energy of "Live"

For Borwick, “live” makes all the difference as an actor, “just to have an audience there, responding to comedy and laughing.” For spectators, “live” generates a certain excitement too. “It’s great for audiences to know, ‘my laughter will be on the radio as well,’” says Monroe, “that ‘I will be the first to hear this podcast.’”

Chris Borwick Factory Theatre HourThe Factory Theatre Hour offers opportunities to students of various disciplines. Those majoring in audio engineering regularly help produce the podcasts, and Borwick hopes to tap into the talents of creative writing students and marketing majors in the future. He and Adam hope the Factory Theatre will continue its good work for the College and community.

“We’re all so glued to our screens,” Borwick (pictured at left) observes, “the idea of being able to go to something live is just a nice change.”

Adam wants to help bridge the gap between college and community and provide opportunities for creative-minded students to be on stage and practice their craft. They realize another benefit too: Inspired learning typically translates into learning that lasts. And, what could provide more inspiration than immediate applause and laughter from an audience primed for an evening of entertainment?

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of GC’s alumni magazine, The RECORD.

Learn more:

Visit the Factory Theatre Hour podcast archives on iTunes

Jes Adam Turns Passion into Action to Keep Factory Theatre Humming

GC Professor and Factory Theatre Spotlight in PUPN Magazine


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This story was published on June 30, 2016

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