Hoping to become a year-round presence in Ashland's theater community, Thanks for the Memories Theatre Company is starting small and thinking big.
"This is something we want to be a living, breathing part of the community," Artistic Director Peter Wickliffe said.
With ink just drying on its applications and business licenses, the newly formed troupe is turning its attention toward its first production, an original play by Wickliffe titled "Leave it on the Stage," premiering in July at the Oak Street Dance Center.
"It was specifically written to be a first show for a new company," Wickliffe said.
Wickliffe will perform alongside Marci McComas in the two-person show, which he describes as an uplifting drama about two friends in show business.
"Friendship is something that lasts throughout the years," Wickliffe said about the play's message.
For Wickliffe and the theater's board, launching the company with an original production is a pragmatic approach. Wickliffe explained that the show's minimal set requirements and minimal actors keep costs down.
"I feel like it's a good starting ground to start a season on with a small show like this," he said.
Additionally, none of the funds raised through admission will be spent on royalties.
"The reason for starting out with a piece that I wrote is mainly that we won't have to pay royalties on it," he said.
While the theater company waits for a response on its application for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, the funds will go toward preparing its larger theater space near the studio, which Wickliffe anticipates to be ready for the 2015 season.
"The space is there, and it's a big open space," he said.
The next step will be adding flats and risers, and creating a comfortable environment that complies with all codes.
"There's already a stage. We just need to bolt it together the way we want it."
An actor who has appeared in many local productions at Camelot Theatre in Talent and the Randall Theatre in Medford, Wickliffe said Thanks for the Memories seeks to add to Ashland's community theater — not compete with it — by providing a year-round schedule of productions utilizing local talent. Other community theaters in Ashland include Ashland Contemporary Theatre and Theatre Convivio.
Wickliffe is launching the theater while performing in Camelot's recently extended production of "The Producers," preparing for Next Stage Repertory Company's upcoming production of "The Spitfire Grill," and holding a day job working in marketing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
"I've got a lot of support from the theaters around me," Wickliffe said. "It's definitely been a juggle to keep all these balls in the air."
Following Wickliffe's original play, the company plans on producing the drama "God of Carnage," written by Yasmine Reza, in October, and the comedy "Almost, Maine," by Joan Cariani, in December.
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