ACT Louisville Productions Hopes to Fill a Local Arts Niche
Writer / Gavin LaPaille
With ACT Louisville Productions (ALP), Founder and Director Beth Craig Hall and Producer Randy Blevins are giving local youths the opportunity to develop their theater talents at a high level and get feedback from professionals in the industry. The former college classmates bring a vast amount of industry knowledge and hope to provide opportunities for local aspiring performers.
“There’s so much talent here in our backyard,” Blevins says. “I think we forget that sometimes. We want to make sure there is space for young talent in the Midwest to succeed. With technology the way it is now, we should be able to put our talent in auditions against the best of the best in Los Angeles and New York. The only thing we are missing here is access to high-level training. That’s why we are so passionate to provide it.”
Hall says there are a lot of great theater companies in the area for people to explore their interest in the theater arts, but not much for those looking for that next-level training after they have discovered their passion for the stage.
“We want the opportunity for the kids we have to train with industry professionals in a professional production,” Hall says. “Louisville is such an artsy town. This is just one little area that we thought had a missing piece, and we are filling that piece in the art jigsaw puzzle.”
The brainchild of Hall, ALP officially kicked things off in 2021 after the duo had contemplated starting the company for years. With an age focus ranging from grade-school-aged children to those just finishing high school, ALP is looking to capture the unique traits of this age group.
“They are the most passionate and driven about being a performer than they probably ever will be in their lives,” Blevins says. “If we can get them then they have a wonderful chance to move up with that career, and at the very least they can learn what possibilities there are within that field.”
“The age group that we serve is the hungriest and the most passionate demographic for the performing arts and there are very few roles for that group,” Hall adds. “You are so limited in the opportunities provided for you.”
There are two main components of ALP. A series of week-long summer camps allow attendees to discover the arts and take their talents to the next level while interacting with Broadway professionals such as Shoshana Bean, Nikki Renée Daniels, Jeff Kready, Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer, Michael Potts and Gerry McIntyre. Students take part in singing, dancing and acting training, led by Hall and others with experience in the industry.
“Most kids have to go out of town to get high-level, intensive training in the arts,” Hall says. “We wanted to make sure they could get that in their own backyard and not have to travel. It’s a very intensive training week. The rigor and professionalism are at another level.”
The second component is a live production known as Arts at the Amphitheater that features roles for both adults and children. Last year ALP put on “The Wizard of Oz” across several nights at Iroquois Amphitheater, bringing back live performances to the famed outdoor venue. Demand for tickets increased each night ALP put on the show due to the high production value, and the team has even higher expectations for this year as they present “The Sound of Music” July 15 through 19. ALP will also present “13: The Musical” this November at the Performing Arts Louisville studio in St. Matthews.
“I didn’t hear anything negative and what I mostly heard was, ‘I didn’t think it would be that good,’” Blevins says. “That’s what I’m most happy about. We exceeded expectations. Now that we’ve shown something, I think we will reach a lot more people. We’re hoping, now that we’ve established ourselves, that even more will come out this summer for ‘The Sound of Music.’”
The camps and the live performances allow young, aspiring actors to discover what it takes to be a professional in the theater industry, which includes roles beyond what is on stage. Hall and Blevins want to make sure they are showing all the possibilities out there and tapping into the talents of each individual, even if that means not pursuing a career in theater at all.
“If these children never decide to pursue this, the skills and lessons they learn will make them successful professionals,” Hall says. “The things you learn as a performer are the things that will make you successful no matter what industry you choose. They get to see the 50-plus professionals that we hire, and come in and do things other than perform on the stage. You have marketing, projections, builders, sound, music, lights. The possibilities they are exposed to are unbelievable. What we teach in the arts is how to communicate, to get what they want and how to ask for it, and to know their role. I’m sure plenty of professionals would have loved to figure that out before they went to their first interview. The arts make everyone better.”
ALP does have two sister companies, both founded by Hall. The Actors Center For Training and Performing Arts Louisville are each headquartered in the St. Matthews area, with working studios to train those of any skill level in the performing arts industry. The location in St. Matthews Station provides benefits to those students and their families who take part, and is visible to the community.
“I would say the advantage is you’re 15 minutes from anywhere in the city,” Hall says. “There are a lot of great local businesses and restaurants for families to go get a bite to eat while they’re waiting for their kids. There are things to do that are close. It was almost like it was meant to be for us.”
Increasing access to their trainings is a huge priority for ALP. Hall and Blevins strive to provide opportunities to those who may not otherwise be able to seek out and undertake the trainings. Through auditions and trainings throughout metro Louisville, and scholarships to deserving students, ALP has uncovered talent that wouldn’t have been discovered otherwise throughout the community.
“We partnered with the city and used community centers all over to hold auditions,” Blevins says. “We wouldn’t have seen some of the talent we saw if we had just said, ‘Come to us.’ There is talent all over this community. Sometimes they don’t have access or the ability to come out to us where we’re having auditions, and what a shame because they don’t even know what they have. By seeing that and allowing them to come to these camps just to explore their talents could be life changing, and open up an incredible opportunity for these kids.”
The ALP team wants to continue making sure there is space in this area of the country for individuals to receive high-level training and use those skills to move forward within the industry. They see the City of Louisville only beginning to reach its potential in the performing arts sector.
“Louisville should be a Broadway destination,” Blevins says. “We should be producing new work that goes to Broadway. It doesn’t have to be Washington, D.C. It doesn’t have to be Chicago. We are an arts town. That’s what we should be doing. I think in five years that’s what we will be doing. People here care about that and support it.”