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Home Arts and Culture  Kristine Thatcher
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Wednesday, December 29,2010

Kristine Thatcher

The actress/director/playwright now has a theater company of her own.

by James Sanford
Illustration by Vince Joy

When did you launch Stormfield Theatre?



It’s been in existence since August 2009. It started with staged readings. The first was “Kimberly Akimbo,” with Carmen Decker (which Stormfield will produce as a full-scale production in 2011).


In your years of performing and writing and directing, did you ever see yourself one day running your own theater company?


It occurred on and off a lot over the years, but I never thought I’d do it. When the gig at BoarsHead ended, it just felt like the right thing to do. (Thatcher, the former artistic director of the nowdefunct BoarsHead Theater, left the theater in May 2009 when her contract was not renewed. BoarsHead closed its doors in December 2009.)


What did you learn from the BoarsHead experience that you’ve brought with you to Stormfield?


I don’t know that I learned anything! (She laughed.) One thing — I don’t know if I learned this from BoarsHead — but I’m being very careful about who I invite on the board. The Stormfield board is so cool. Many of them are artists in their own right. Along with raising money and the other things a board does, it’s important the members understand the mission of a not-for-profit organization.


What are you looking for in board members?


I don’t know if I can articulate it. But definitely a passion for theater, a blinding passion for theater. They’ve got to be in it for the long haul.


Times are rough and the arts are always the first to go in rough times. Funding for the arts has been slashed, and corporations are holding back funding these days. So right now, we’re really relying on the support of individuals. It’s been phenomenal what (the board members) have done. We have a mailing list of about 900, and they’re all so supportive of what we’re doing. In fact, “Christmas With Mark Twain” sold out last night, which is a great surprise on a cold winter night.


Have you run into people who’ve asked, “Why do we need another theater company in Lansing?”


I haven’t, but I know that sentiment is out there. My answer is, “Do we need another restaurant, or art gallery?” The test of a vibrant community is how they support the arts the arts. The arts are the only thing that really civilize us, that make us human, so I think we can use all the theater companies we can get.


What will set Stormfield apart from the other local theaters?


Our dedication to living playwrights — that’s basically where we’re hanging our hat. The playwright has to be alive and working. But I’m thinking at some point we’re going to have to have a Dead Playwrights Festival so we can do a classic now and then. Living playwrights reflect our times, so I think that’s one thing that sets us apart. I guess you couldn’t call Mark Twain a living playwright — but he’s still a best seller.


Is there any chance you’ll be returning to the stage yourself?


The staff is trying to coax me into doing “The Lady With All the Answers” (a one-woman show based on the life and career of advice columnist Ann Landers). I’ve been playing around with the script. I haven’t acted in about eight years, so I have to find out if I can retain lines — that’s very important! (She laughed.)


But I’ve told them if I do that, it will be all I can be doing: The administrative stuff will fall by the wayside. So we’ll see. But the script is surprisingly funny and touching. It really is a nice piece.


Stormfield moved into a former judo studio and car wash in Frandor in the fall, and you’ve done a major renovation job since then. Is this looking like a permanent home?


It’s an indefinite lease. That’s how I put it. Either one of us can call it quits after 30 days, but I think our landlord. Patrick Corr. has been so benevolent. He realizes we’ve put a lot of work into the building and he’s being really generous with us. I love location of it, too. It seems central to the whole community. Even last night, people were still trying to find where we are. But once you know we’re behind Olga’s Kitchen and Trippers — and you can spit and hit the Sears water tower — once they know where we are, they know.

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