Where creativity takes center stage.
Of all the many ways businesses can use creativity, there's probably no greater example than Civic Theatre in the west end of Allentown. The creative spirit is alive and well due in large part to the man who's been its Artistic Director for the past twenty years, Mr. William Sanders.
Q: How much of a role does creativity play in a theatre production?
Everything about a theater production is creativity. You might say creativity is the star of the production. The director, the designers, the book writer, the composer, the lyricist, the playwright...everyone behind the scenes is actually referred to as "creatives," as in "cast and creatives."
Q: What does your creativity mean to you?
A: My creativity has always been such a part of my life that I don't really know where I would be without it. It certainly has made me make my way in life. After directing my first musical in fourth grade. I adapted TV shows and movies all through grade school and middle school. I've always loved painting pictures and creating pretty pictures on stage. So my creativity means everything to me. It is, for want of a better word, my life. Wow. Never really thought of that before.
Q: What do you love about being an artistic director at Civic Theatre?
A: What I love about my job and my chosen path is the collaboration with people of so many different experience levels. There's very rarely any jockeying for position or diva trips or unkindness. Unfortunately, I think sometimes creativity and imagination go hand-in-hand with sensitivity. And I have a very thin skin. That doesn't always bode well for ambition in the arts. So I'm very lucky to have been able to, as a friend recently told me, followed my heart. I also love that I get to sometimes bring work to the area that otherwise may not be seen, and to have the opportunity to do the work in such a glorious old theatre which we hope will be restored very soon.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you choose the same career path?
A: Absolutely. I definitely miss…Or I think I miss…Acting. But I couldn't imagine my life without being actor/dancer then director/choreographer - it has been…I'm getting emotional…extremely rewarding and I've been so lucky.
Q: What advice would you give a young person looking to go in to acting?
A: This is going to sound so cliché but it was said to me. You have to love it beyond everything else and you have to be prepared to not make a living. See as much theater as possible. See great actors doing Shakespeare. See the best people you possibly can. Study, train, read all the books, make sure it's your passion and then when you get those opportunities to act forget it all and just use your imagination and jump into the world of the play.
Q: What’s the one thing you know now, that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
A: That I should've gone to therapy much younger. :-) I wish that I had known that it's really about confidence. I may sound like Maria in The Sound of Music, but it's true. I was bullied as a kid and I didn't realize it until quite recently how much that made me need people's approval. Like me. Like me. Like me. And what that did was whittle away at my self-confidence. That's another thing I love about CIVIC - it was a place that eventually felt like home and one is always confident at home. If I were starting again I would definitely do everything I could to learn and cultivate self-reliance and confidence.
Q: Can you name an instance where creativity was used to enhance a production?
A: There are so many instances. I can't realistically answer that question because with what we do, creativity is the locus of it. One of my favorite creative moments was coming up with the ending of Christmas Carol. My friend Sharon (CIVIC's fearless leader for decades) had written a script that I was tweaking to direct in 1989 and I was retyping it on the old Olivetti in our old box office on 19th St. The Storyteller was finishing his speech and I had an idea. I still remember excitedly calling and reading these words to Sharon from the box office. (A young child runs down the aisle.) Small Boy: "Come on dad we're gonna be late for Christmas dinner." (The Storyteller walks toward him and as he moves we notice he is limping.) That is one of my favorite instances of "Wow! Thank you God." That's another thing I'd like to say I really think that I think of creativity as being very close to God. Or my perception of God. As Tennessee Williams wrote…"Sometimes -there's God – so quickly!"
Q: Why is theatre important in our lives?
A: The theatre holds a mirror up to our common humanity. And it's communal. We will never be in the same space in the same way, this way ever again. That's why it's unique to television and film and even the visual arts, which are mostly fixed and static. The theatre combines the best of all of those forms. It's been proven (and I don't need a study) that theatergoers are more empathetic. And boy does the world need that. I think we are all born creative. As children we play bank or dress up or Star Wars or Dark Shadows and somewhere along the way some of us lose that. Going to a production could spark that impulse we had to play once again. The people that love the theatre are closest to their creative side. The people that love the theatre are concerned with others. The people that love the theatre are lucky. I am so so lucky.
Sanders knows that the creative spirit that thrives inside Civic Theatre will now get put to the test as they recently launched a capital campaign to restore the theatre to its former art deco glory. Civic has used creativity to entertain audiences for ninety years; now they're going to need it to ensure they survive another ninety. Because after all, the show...must go on.