SALINA — Theater people from around Kansas gathered in Salina last week for a Conference for the Association of Kansas Theatres.
This was the first event of this size and scope for the AKT in over 10 years.
It was organized and planned by Michael Spicer, executive Ddirector of the Salina Community Theatre, and Travis Grossman, executive director of Theatre Atchison. They were supported by Peter Jasso, director of the Creative Arts Industries Commission, from Topeka.
“The Association is dedicated to facilitating theatre networking,” Spicer asid. “We’re expecting around 80 participants from around 25 theaters of all sizes. I’m excited to have so much interest.”
Jarrett Leiker, of Hays, is a board member at the Hays Community Theatre. Like many attendees, he is also a performer. Plus, he is a volunteer who works on sets.
“We’re here at the conference to learn how to make the organization grow,” said Leiker, as he exited a session titled “Networking to Sustain Your Organization.” “Funding is hard. We do an annual Haunted Tour downtown, which includes a re-enactment and shootout.”
Informational sessions were scheduled all day Friday and Saturday. Topics included management, marketing, lighting, directing, dance, fundraising and more. Angela Cassette, managing director of the Wichita Music Theatre, presented a well-attended session on marketing and social media. She challenged her audience to really think of how they engage people.
Cassette cautioned her audience to guard against social media fatigue, in which people would stop paying attention.
MJ Harper is an actress on stage at the Pittsburg Community Theatre. Her husband, Jason Huffman, is a board member and production manager. Theater is their life. The theater started in the 1970s and organized as a nonprofit in 1984. They have a growing program for young people called Junior Stars, to which they’ve added a second session, as well as a theater group for grades 6-12.
Harper and Huffman were looking forward to hearing what other theaters were doing.
“It’s important to bring back to the community, not just the community theater, but to educational theaters at schools and at the university,” said Huffman. “We don’t need our audiences to become stale, to see repeat shows.”
With participants coming from large, well-established theatres like Topeka Civic Theatre and host Salina Community Theatre, as well as smaller venues like the Holton Community Theatre, ideas, successes and questions emerged from many levels of experience.