The CAT is unique above all; however, there is genius in the simplicity of their environment and artistic attitude. I hoped to incorporate these principles and values in the execution of this poster. It’s off center and distinctive but there are no flashy colors or textures that distract from the message that there is art happening at the Charleston Alley Theater and you should be intrigued to learn more.
I made a video! Check it out!
Thanks so much to my friend Scott Brooks! I tried to do this right! I really did! Tell me what you think?
Tanya and Leonard Wood originated the CAT in 1991; they had a simple dream to provide a place where the theatre-folk of the Charleston area could come together and create. Originally, the couple faced the challenges of establishing a name. The CAT: simple, but telling. Cats are naturally independent creatures but the ‘alley-cat’ is a stray in need of a home.
In the same way, artistes of the Coles County area were taken in by this extraordinary couple and their singular vision for a strong theatrical community. Original and existing board members Duke and Linda Bagger continue in honoring the Woods’ original intent. The CAT rejects popular plays in favor of those that honor the spirit of the artist.
Artists pride themselves on being unique and a deviation of the norm. However, the desire to belong is an inherent human trait. They seek other like-minded people in order to improve their own craft and do what they love. The Charleston Alley Theatre is a sanctuary for these artists.
When Tanya and Leonard Wood originated the CAT in 1991, they had a simple dream to provide a place where the theatre-folk of the Charleston area could come together and create. Leonard was a WWII veteran, Fulbright Scholar, and textbook author. Tanya attended Smith College in Massachusetts and received her training at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Leonard became employed as a professor at Eastern Illinois University and the couple built an extremely successful life in Charleston, Illinois. They were each involved in the Coles County community.
Originally, the couple faced the challenges of establishing a name. The CAT: simple, but telling. Cats are naturally independent creatures but the ‘alley-cat’ is a stray in need of a home. In the same way, artistes of the Coles County area were taken in by this extraordinary couple and their singular vision for a strong theatrical community. Sadly, on March 13, 2004 Tanya and Leonard were killed in an automobile accident east of Charleston. Side-by-side, these two nurturers of the artistic temperament, closed their final scene.
However, in their epilogue, resides the Charleston Alley Theatre. The CAT is their legacy. This little avant garde playhouse that is unique and all-encompassing at the same time, which has provided twenty years of shelter for local actors, playwrights, and visual artists. In a technologically advancing world, the CAT prevails in their attempts to remain individual in an ever-conforming world.
Original and existing board members Duke and Linda Bagger continue in honoring the Woods’ original intent. After their sudden death, Duke and Linda made turned the organization into a non-profit theater so as to focus on what is more important: the spirit over the societal demands for profit. Today, the CAT produces music, theater, and art which is unique to them. Where other artists are turned away, the CAT welcomes them with open arms and enthusiasm for whatever craft they seek to develop.
The CAT strives to create new and interesting art. While most venues stick to popular plays that are guaranteed to draw in crowds. The CAT prefers to bring in obscure works such as those of Durang or original plays that were written by people in the community. The CAT rejects the “safe” and popular plays in favor of those that honor the spirit of the artist.
Bill Stinde, a first-time performer and recent advocate for the CAT says, “A few empty seats are a small price to pay for the seats that are taken by people you know just get it.” The CAT is not always understood, nor does it seek to be, but it is always accepting and will withstand the scrutiny in favor of remaining an artist’s safe haven.
“The CAT is arrogant enough to think of themselves as better than ‘Community Theatre’. We are a nonprofit semi-professional organization. We don’t pay anyone to do anything. It’s all because we want to do it that we get things done.”
Charleston Alley Theater Vice President
It’s true the Charleston Alley Theater is a small organization with an intimate setting and seemingly exclusive culture. Yet, how much do you really know about the CAT? Here are some facts that help separate this ‘nonprofit semi-professional organization’ from the community theaters in the U.S.
- Unlike other theaters that began closing in the early 90’s, the CAT was founded in a time of downfall by a local couple in 1991. To this day all the ground-work funding for the organization, building, and press came from Tanya and Leonard Wood‘s pockets. The CAT has only been a non-for-profit organization since 2005.
- The CAT are the only community based theater in East Central Illinois with their own venue; others must rent a venue to perform.
- The CAT has its own house band The Chat Noir that performs live for shows and charity events. Most other theaters hire bands or use a soundtrack over a sound system to assist in show ambiance or musical production.
- CAT only does one well-known show a season; all other shows are meant to be uncommon productions to educate the community. In the words of the CAT Vice President Jeri Hughes, “We do the productions other theaters won’t or can’t do.”
- The CAT is one of the only community theaters that has produced plays and acts written by natives of their region. Just last summer the CAT assisted in the production a one-man show written and starring Charleston resident Zen Kotori called A Song for Linda.
A lot of people in the American society today believe theater, community theater in particular, is a dead-end. Theater may be entertaining to witness and an enjoyable hobby but what contributions does it actually make to us or our community? Who cares? Theater, like all art, represents passion and commitment; so here are some facts about this ‘dead-end’.
- 7000+ theaters and over 1.5 million volunteers are registered with the American Association of Community Theatre (AACT)
- 1990-2005. In this 15 year span the number of nonprofit theaters in the U.S. doubled
- $1.9 billion from non-for-profit theaters contributed to the U.S economy in 2010
- 31 million people attended a non-for-profit theatrical production in 2010 (this does not include repeat visitors)
- 50% of theater income derives from public contributions (such as voluntary donations)
- 82% of theaters polled reported a surplus of profits in 2011
- 40% of any theater in technical or administrative in nature
- 74% of surveyed theaters in the 2011 Fall Fiscal Report were in the Midwest
- $130 is the average ticket price of a show on Broadway in NYC
- $15 the cost of a ticket to a community theater production