Tony Pike, J. Barrett Cooper & Kelly Moore in the 2013 Savage Rose
production of Taming of the Shrew. Photo-Harlan Taylor
By Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company was the dream of J. Barrett Cooper, and for five seasons he made the most of the reality, shepherding the company through a range of classics from Shakespeare to Samuel Beckett, from Oscar Wilde to Tennessee Williams. So upon hearing of his departure for a new position as Chair of the Theatre Department/Director at Idyllwild Arts Academy in California, questions about the company’s future were inevitable. Small local theatre groups are often driven by a single personality, and Cooper’s dedication to the mission of classical plays mounted with fealty to their period exercised a singular passion.
Now the Board of Directors has appointed Kelly Moore as Interim Artistic Director to oversee the indeterminate transition period. Having been Cooper’s key lieutenant since Savage Rose’s inception, and having acted in several productions and directed the fifth season closer, The Tempest, she brings the requisite experience and intricate understanding of the company history necessary to keep things moving.
“Kelly is the natural choice. She is incredibly organized and has been there from the beginning,” explains Cooper, whose tenure as Artistic Director officially ends with Sunday evening’s performance of King Lear in Central Park, part of the Kentucky Shakespeare Community Partners finishing out the summer (performance are Aug, 13, 15, 17).
The 2014-15 season beings with a remount of last year’s much-lauded Ionesco one-act, The Bald Soprano on September 5 & 6 at The Bard’s Town, and will continue through December, but the planned spring productions, which were to have been directed by Cooper have been cancelled. Moore says the coming months will be devoted to building infrastructure for the company to grow on: a solid foundation for the future. Besides her appointment, Ashley Beck-Heinbrock and Melinda Beck will be working on managing business and marketing. Moore describes the dynamic between the three as “symbiotic.”
She is also grateful for the broad support available from the company’s Artistic Associates and extended auxiliary of talent. “We were lucky enough to gather a group of people to work with Savage Rose who share the mission and philosophy of the company.”
The Board of Directors has no timetable for finding a new Artistic Director, but when Moore speaks about the company’s prospects, she expresses care and patience in understated tones that inspire confidence. “I love this company and care deeply about its future. Barrett gave us the foundation that will allow us the opportunity to grow, and there are a whole lot of people who feel as passionate about it as I do.’