Theatre Workshop of Owensboro kicks off its 56th season with “Sense and Sensibility” at the TWO Empress Theatre Friday.
Directed by Lisa Mingus-Tullis, Kate Hamil’s “Sense and Sensibility” is set during Regency England, and is a “true comedy of manners,” according to Mingus-Tullis.
“At first glance, it is seemingly simple with the intricacies of courtship and thwarted love, but it is the witty dialogue, intricate plots and unique characters that shine through,” Mingus-Tullis said.
Costumes for the production were designed by Anne Welsh, who researched the time period thoroughly to create realistic pieces. With the updated sound system at the Empress Theatre, the director said the theatre will provide the ambiance necessary to spotlight the cast.
“The cast is a mix of newcomers and longtime TWO veterans,” Mingus-Tullis said. “They have worked tirelessly to bring the production to life — they have really embraced their roles.”
The Empress Theatre is one of two venues owned by TWO. Located at 418 Frederica St., TWO purchased the historic building in 2011.
“When TWO decided to buy it, we didn’t want it to be confusing so we researched the 1912 building and found that it had once been the Bleich Theatre, named after the owner,” said Executive Director Todd Reynolds.
Reynolds said more research revealed Bleich built another theatre down the street, named the new building the Bleich Theatre and changed the name of the previous theatre to the Empress.
“People had known the theatre as the old Malco or Goldies, but we went back to Empress,” Reynolds said of assuming the theatre’s previous name.
TWO’s long-standing history as a theatre company began in 1955 when Lawrence Hager and two theatre enthusiasts created the Theatre Workshop, Inc.
They held their first full season the next year, but they had disbanded by 1959 due to lack of funding and no permanent location.
Reynolds said in 1967, a group of actors from the defunct theatre group performed a staged reading of “Antigone” for the Owensboro Festival of Arts.
TWO began performing plays again, using spaces at local high schools, the Rudd Hotel basement, which was located across from the courthouse, and the National Guard Armory.
“The Rudd Hotel had been really swanky in its time but became run down,” Reynolds said. “Donna Risley used to tell stories about men that would come to the hotel to help build sets. She had stories about the derelicts and helpers that would come in.”
In 1973, TWO found a permanent home in the Trinity Centre, located at 407 W. Fifth St.
“We are truly a community theatre,” Reynolds said. “We do [plays] that people are interested in and we go for variety.”
Season selections are chosen by a committee who reviews proposals for plays and directors and also looks at plays that are popular in the theatre community.
TWO’s season begins with “Sense and Sensibility” in September, “Escanaba in Da Moonlight” in November, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, one of their four Christmas-time plays, in December, “Sons of the Prophet” in February and “Something’s Afoot” in April.
Reynolds said he hopes TWO is able to instill a love of the theatre by creating a role for everyone.
“We want starts and those with no experience to get involved,” Reynolds said. “Theatre is a confidence builder and we love the fact that we have a large youth program. Adults get a lot out of it, too. It broadens the horizons of everyone.”