Originally created 05/07/99

New theater troupe already has a home



While starting up a professional repertory theater company in Augusta, James Worth has half the battle won already.

Mr. Worth, managing and artistic director of the nonprofit Augusta Theatre Company, has secured Augusta Technical Institute's 260-seat Jack B. Patrick Information Center Auditorium as a home base for performances.

"We're going to create a home for ourselves. We can get to know that theater very well," said Mr. Worth, who works in media production at the Medical College of Georgia's Division of Health Communication. "It's a nice facility on a good, secure campus. People will know that's where we're going to be. We're not changing around -- we're not here and we're not there."

While several local theater outfits are already in existence, Mr. Worth said the Augusta Theatre Company will be different on a variety of levels.

First off, the actors will be paid.

"We will pay our actors, and we will pay staff. We don't know how much yet. It's nonprofit, not profit-sharing. But we aim to pay money for appearing on stage," said Mr. Worth. "I'm not in this to do half-baked theater."

Also, Mr. Worth is trying to build a repertory company, rather than audition players for each show. He'll hold auditions in July. For information, send e-mail to augustatheatre.com. "I want people to get away from the concept that this is community theater," he said. "It's not community theater. The rehearsal schedule is going to be difficult as well. Those actors will be committing for a year."

In addition, the company's plays will have month-long runs, as opposed to one weekend, adding up to more than 100 performances a season.

The season opens with Cosi, an adult comedy by Louis Nowra, Sept. 2-25. The troupe also will perform William Shakespeare's Richard III Nov. 4-27, Present Laughter by Noel Coward Jan. 12-Feb. 5, Shakespeare's The Tempest March 16-April 8 and Sam Shepard's Curse of the Starving Class May 18-June 10, 2000.

Ticket prices will be $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.

The troupe's choice of material, from avant garde to Shakespeare, is also different from stage productions offered by the Augusta Players, Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre, Storyland Theatre, Aiken Community Playhouse and the Bell Auditorium's Broadway series, Mr. Worth said.

"Who does Shakespeare in town, apart from Romeo and Juliet? Local schools do, but it's not something all school kids can see. They're going to go to Atlanta and Columbia to see those shows, and we should be doing those shows here," he said.

Some financial backing has been lined up, but Mr. Worth would not reveal the sources.

Mr. Worth has directed three productions with the Augusta Players and served on its board of directors. But he was a vocal critic of the organization when longtime executive director Jay Willis resigned in May 1998 rather than accept a job restructuring.

He insinuated that Mr. Willis was a victim of board politics but said that the creation of the Augusta Theatre Company is not in response to any ill will he harbors toward the Players.

"I worked with the Players last year. I'm really behind community theater; I think community theater is important. But my background is professional," said Mr. Worth, who has extensive TV-production experience and stage-production credits.

The Augusta Theatre Company will also have an oversight board, but Mr. Worth said he will not serve on the board. Rather, he will answer to it.

"We're going to keep politics out of it," he said. "They do their job, which is important. I'll do my job, which is important."

Kent Kimes covers entertainment and arts and for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3626 or feature@augustachronicle.com.