The Theatre Workshop of Owensboro (TWO) launched its 60th season this month, commemorating decades of productions for the community by the community. TWO has evolved drastically over the past six decades, shifting from shows in schools and hotel basements to six productions per season and two downtown theatres.
Executive director Todd Reynolds has been involved with the theatre in some capacity since he was a teenager. As he looks back on his 47 years with the organization and delves into TWO’s even earlier years, he said it’s remarkable how far the organization has come.
“Learning about all of the people involved over the year, especially those I’ve never met, it’s inspirational,” he said. “To see where we’ve been and the early beginnings, it’s amazing to see where we are right now and what the future holds.”
The “Little Theatre” concept in Owensboro began in 1955 when Lawrence Hager discussed his desire to open one with family and friends. Much like the group’s mission today, Hager wanted a place where local and aspiring thespians and directors could hone and share their talents.
He collaborated with Kentucky Wesleyan professor Walter Lazenby and Mrs. R. Hal Compton of the Owensboro Wagon Company to form the Little Theatre of Owensboro. They hosted shows at Eastern Junior High School (now Estes Elementary), the Rudd Hotel basement, and the National Guard Armory during the early years.
In 1973, they landed on a permanent location at the Trinity Centre, thanks to help from city management.
“Our goal has always been to offer something for everyone – we are not an exclusive club – we want everyone to be involved,” Reynolds said. “This doesn’t always mean being on stage. We need people for our front-of-house, back-of-house, education initiatives, outreach programs, and more.”
This year’s season begins on October 13 with “Blithe Spirit” – a comical ghost story where a writer consults a medium to treat a case of writer’s block. The show will air at 7:30 p.m. on October 13, 14, 20, and 21. Sunday matinees are available at 2 p.m. on October 15 and 22. TWO will host the show at the Trinity Centre at 407 W. 5th Street.
The next production on the schedule is “Miss Nelson is Missing,” a tale of hard-as-nails substitute teacher Viola Swamp replacing a nice teacher who’s gone missing. The show will run on November 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. on November 5. TWO will host the show at The Empress Theater at 418 Frederica Street.
The theatre will also host “The Man Who Came to Dinner” in December, the first show TWO ever staged in 1955. Other future productions include “And Then There Were None” in February, “How to Eat Like a Child” in March, and “Into the Woods” in April.
TWO even has a corporate improv program, where they partner with companies to help their employees improve various aspects of the job.
“We’ve taken theatre outside the walls of our buildings, not only to our outreach programs but also by doing improv workshops with several of our corporate partners,” Reynolds said. “Our goal is to improve everyday tasks in the business world. It’s very fulfilling to know you’re impacting the world around you, especially for businesses that help your community thrive.”
They also boast a thriving education program with a full-time education coordinator for local elementary and middle schools.
“The development of our youth and community is important to us,” he said. “Being an active participant in the arts makes life better. It builds empathy, a sense of worth and belonging, and grows relationships.”
Reynolds constantly referenced the community when discussing the theatre. Because it’s not a professional theatre, he said they’re continually leaning on locals for nearly every operation element.
“It’s not a paid touring company coming in – it’s the folks down the street from several different professions and walks of life. The folks you see every day,” he said. “This is a great way for folks to be a part of something. Some folks might think they have a hole in their life. I know I did, and then I found this place and became a part of something bigger than me. Being a teammate is important, and we provide those opportunities.”
Click here to learn more about TWO or purchase tickets for an upcoming event.