New theater plan promises entertainment potential

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

As a new year begins, so does a new era in Lockhart entertainment.
After several years of “competing,” and splitting pieces of Lockhart”s live-theater pie, the area”s two community theaters, the Gaslight Theater and the LCT Baker Theater have decided to merge, creating the new Gaslight Baker Theatre company.
Plans

to merge the two groups began last summer, as both companies grappled with growing pains, increasing interest and what some might call waning funds.
“There was support for both theaters, but that support was getting split as the community tried to get behind both of us,” said Gaslight Baker”s Artistic Director, Randy Wachtel. “By joining forces and combining our efforts, we”re able to grow both in support and in artistic vision.”
Key differences in the visions of the two theaters could have created a problem as the companies melded into one. The LCT Baker Theater was known for it”s traditional performances, while the Gaslight presented edgier, more modern theater pieces, focusing sometimes on racier themes than its counterpart.
However, Wachtel said, artistic differences are being embraced by the new theater company as a platform for growth.
“We”ve chosen classic comedies and melodramas for our first season,” he said. “We”ll be performing Tennessee Williams and Neil Simon, in addition to some other things. Our idea was to bridge the gap and find the middle of the road for both groups” styles.”
The theory seems to have worked.
As the groups merged, board members from both boards were selected for their strengths, and the Board of Directors for the new Gaslight Baker Theater contains equal numbers of members from the two pre-existing boards.
“[The LCT] board had a lot of recognition and long-standing community ties that are going to be beneficial to the theater,” Wachtel said. “On [the Gaslight] side, we had the fresh faces. Now, we”ve got three board members that are degreed in theater, and others that are experienced in other aspects. It”s an exciting time.”
Indeed, Wachtel suggested, it is an exciting time for the arts in Caldwell County.
“We have a great talent pool [of actors], right here in Caldwell County,” he said. “And we also have people coming in to audition from Austin, San Marcos, Seguin and Luling.”
Most communities in the area do not have community theater available, he said, and he hopes the growth of theater in Lockhart will springboard the Gaslight Baker into a regional spotlight.
“That”s up the road, of course,” Wachtel said. “But our long-term plan is to make it into a top-notch regional theater, where people can come and see live theater for a $10 ticket. That”s not something that people can get in larger cities, and it”s something that we”re excited about being able to offer.”
With the merger of the companies and the reorganization of the board of directors, Wachtel said, the theater is planning other major changes, beginning with the theater building itself.
Embracing the historic aspects of the Baker Theater, the group opted to abandon the Gaslight”s theater space on North Main Street, and focus their attention on the Baker building. Early stages of the project include extensive renovations to the inside and outside of the building.
“We”ve painted the interior of the building and are working toward a number of changes,” Wachtel said.
Among those changes, plans are under way to refurbish the exterior of the building, remodel the lobby area, replace seats in the main theater and, eventually, reopen the balcony for seating.
“We have short-term and long-term goals, as far as the building itself is concerned,” Wachtel said. “Eventually, we hope to buy it. For now, though, we want to make it into as modern and comfortable theater experience as we possibly can.”
Work has been under way for several weeks on the building. Many seats in the main seating arena have been removed and will be replaced. Walls have been painted. Windows have been removed from the building”s front fa├žade.
More changes are still planned, prior to the theater”s inaugural performance in February.
“We”ll be going for an art-deco, Twenties and Thirties look in the lobby,” Wachtel said. “And we”re really making some changes as far as the way our productions are presented. We want people to be comfortable coming to the theater and excited about seeing live productions.”
One of the main production changes will be the introduction of a “Pay What You Will” performance at the start of every show”s run. The first performance of each show this season will offer viewers an opportunity to see the production for a donation price of their choosing.
“Those performances, we hope, will encourage people that aren”t sure about spending $10 for the ticket to come see the shows for less,” he said. “And they will also give people who want to make larger donations to do so.”
In all, Wachtel hopes the merger and the attendant changes will be good for the community at large.
“We have so much raw talent here, not just in actors, but in music, in writing, in other performance art,” he said. “As we go forward, we hope to embrace that as much as we can, and to bring new people in as the community grows.”

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