Booking a season’s worth of productions takes patience and planning, but Gail Robinson-Butler, director of the Clemens Fine Arts Center at West Kentucky Community & Technical College, expects her efforts to pay off.
When it comes to setting the event schedule, WKCTC’s goal is to present quality acts, many of which have never been brought into the area. “We look for young, emerging acts. It’s always a bit of a gamble,” she said. “Sometimes an act will get so hot, so fast, that it will slip through your fingers. Plan B has to be there. You don’t ever assume (an act) will be yours,” Robinson-Butler said. “You just have to roll with the punches.”
Scheduling conflicts also come into play. Robinson-Butler said that communication with other local arts venues, such as the Carson Center, the Paducah Symphony, and the Market House Theatre, is a crucial part of the booking process. “We all try not to step on each other’s toes,” she said.
The booking went smoothly this year, allowing the selection committee to focus on its main concerns, which are audience appeal and overall quality of productions. Knowledge of both the student community at WKCTC and the region is a major factor in the yearly decision process. “We look at the response to past shows, as well as current trends,” Robinson-Butler said.
The Arts in Focus season opens Oct. 12 with “Tap — The Show,” which features a cast of award-winning singers and dancers performing everything from Broadway classics to flamenco dance numbers.
The entertainment continues with “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” opening on Nov. 3. The musical journeys through the Fats Waller song book, giving audiences a taste of Harlem in its heyday.
The new year will open with performances from the Harlem Gospel Choir, on Feb. 9, and the Stringfever string ensemble, on March 9.
The series will conclude with “Of Mice and Men,” a production from The Acting Company, a New York-based troupe that boasts such alumni as Kevin Kline.
In an effort to give students a glimpse into what careers in the arts are like, WKCTC will host an open rehearsal for “Tap — The Show,” along with a master class in tap dancing. The Acting Company will offer a master class in theater, as well. “(Students) will see what it’s like to be a professional. They’ll get educated, participate, and meet the people involved, in order to deepen the experience,” she said.
The Campus Series will appeal to age groups from 18-35, she said, with a performance from emerging recording artist James Wesley.
This season’s keynote speaker will be New York Times bestselling author Jeanette Walls. Walls will visit for the One Book, One Campus, One Community Read of her novel “Half Broke Horses” on March 14-15.
For audiences that don’t feel like dressing up, WKTC also offers the Backstage Pass series. Regional artists such as The Todd Hill Quintet and The Dirt Daubers will perform on a stage that has been transformed into a coffee house, creating a more laid-back listening experience. “It’s an intimate way to go to the theater in jeans and tennis shoes,” Robinson-Butler said.
Tickets can be purchased from the Clemens Center box office at 534-3212, or online at www.artsinfocus.org. Season subscriptions for the Arts in Focus series are available, and individual tickets to the season’s events can be ordered after Sept. 15.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.