PRESTONSBURG — The president of a local acting company says his group is looking for a new home, after being informed last month it could no longer use the Mountain Arts Center as its primary venue.
Appalachian Community Theatres board president Jason Kretzer said the group, which relies on local actors to stage musicals, plays and holiday shows, is currently exploring several options and considering what impact the move will have on next season’s schedule.
“This decision did indeed come as a complete and total surprise to us,” Kretzer said. “To that point, we had already confirmed show dates with the MAC and announced our upcoming season during all of the Schoolhouse showings and in other media.”
Kretzer said the acting company had just wrapped up their final performance of its most recent production, “Schoolhouse Rock Jr.,” when the group was told that they would not be allowed to use the MAC for future performances.
Up until they were notified of the change, Kretzer said, organizers of the group were unaware of any problems. He added that difficulties the MAC was facing in staging the productions were only mentioned when organizers were being told that they would not be able to use the MAC in the future.
“The reasons they gave were completely resolvable had we been informed of them,” Kretzer said. “However, we were not informed of most of them until that meeting.
“The given reasons would be what we consider to be growing pains and are common to any groups that work with children, as we do. I am not saying that we were perfect and that we were not experiencing growing pains. However, the opportunity no longer exists to work to resolve them.”
Scheduling conflicts, communication problems
MAC Director Keith Caudill said Thursday the facility was simply having a difficult time serving the group and at the same time taking care of other performances.
“It became apparent they needed something more than we could accommodate,” Caudill said.
“It wasn’t intended to be a bad break,” Caudill said later. “Obviously, they’re going to be disappointed, because of all the resources we have. But even with all of the resources we have, we couldn’t accommodate them.”
Caudill said a lot more work goes into each production, including Appalachian Community Theatres’ shows, than the public realizes. He said the group needed to use the MAC for two weeks, to accommodate shows and practices. But he noted that during one of the group’s shows, the facility was also trying to juggle five other events taking place at the same time.
Caudill also said it became difficult to communicate with the all-volunteer group, because there was no one person in charge of everything, like there would be if the group had a paid professional in charge of operations. He called trying to communicate with Appalachian Community Theatres “organizationally difficult.”
“It’s not a fault of anyone,” Caudill said. “Sometimes organizations become dysfunctional.”
New challenges, new opportunities
Kretzer said Appalachian Community Theatres is now considering what steps to take next.
“We have approached other local venues about housing us as both a permanent feature – like we thought we were going to be at the MAC – and in a temporary capacity,” Kretzer said. “We would absolutely be delighted to remain in Floyd county due to all of the support.”
Kretzer also noted that the group’s sudden exclusion from the MAC comes on the heels of what they had considered a successful season.
“We would like to recognize everyone in both Prestonsburg and greater Floyd County for their amazing support this season,” Kretzer said. “Businesses and the community at large have been very excited and have provided both financial and intangible support for our endeavor.”
“While I do not have exact numbers, we entertained over 5,000 people this year. We ended our year with great momentum.”
Kretzer said the board needs to find a new venue soon, either on a permanent or temporary basis, because depending on where the group ends up, next season’s schedule could change.
“To move forward with our schedule as it was announced, we would need a special space — especially for ‘Wizard of Oz,’” Kretzer said. “Keep in mind, we had fully expected to be at the MAC next season, and our show selection matched that venue. As such, we may need to modify our show selection if they do not match the venue.”
Kretzer said the board is using the moment to refocus on what it needs to do in order to take the next step toward success, not just for the acting company, but for the community, as well.
“As such, we are working on a grant that will get that ball rolling that will allow us and members of the community to attend a training in Colquitt, Ga.,” Kretzer said. “It is put on by a local theatre there that literally turned their town into a tourist hub.”
Kretzer also said Appalachian Community Theatres hopes to remain in Prestonsburg or elsewhere in Floyd County, or perhaps Paintsville, as the area is central to the region from which the theater draws both its talent and its audience.
“We have felt incredibly welcome in this town and have been thrilled to utilize a venue as well equipped and staffed as the MAC,” Kretzer said.
And while the group is disappointed to no longer call the MAC its home, he said everyone involved with the theater is thankful for the time they spent there.
“We would like to emphasize how thrilled we have been with the level of service we received at the MAC – much beyond anything we expected,” Kretzer said. “The MAC technical staff were beyond friendly and helpful and provided this group of amateur volunteers their expert guidance. If it was in their power, they provided everything we ever asked.”