Whitten Montgomery, Remy Sisk & Charlie Meredith of Acting Against Cancer.
By Kate Barry
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Every theatre company in Louisville is unique and has its own story to tell. For Kids Acting Against Cancer that story begins in the basement of founding members Jaclyn and Whitten Montgomery. Inspired by their mother’s battle with cancer, these sisters rallied their friends together for a production of Annie and donated all proceeds to charity. Thus, Kids Acting Against Cancer was born. Since its creation in 1999, Kids Acting Against Cancer, or KAAC, has created a firm presence in Louisville’s theater community, made hearty donations and pledges to Kosair Children’s Hospital as well as keeping true to the group’s mission of being a theater with a cause. After dropping “Kids” from the group’s title earlier this year, Acting Against Cancer has shown the community that it’s all grown up.
This group has come a long way from the basement. Between 2007-2012, the company produced several one-night only gala style productions in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts’ Bomhard Theater and the Clifton Center. From such success, KAAC was able to produce a multi-night run of And Then There Were None in the MeX theater which proved to be the first of many sell out performance. With great success in a well established space, KAAC went on to bigger and more ambitious productions. KAAC has performed God of Carnage, Rent, The Rocky Horror Show and the regional premiere of Spring Awakening, and is now preparing a production of Next to Normal that opens January 30, 2015. For Artistic Director Remy Sisk, these productions are all about “…knowing who we are, taking us seriously,” while relying on what he calls “solid synergy.” And with these mature productions, they have pulled out all the stops. Their production of Rent was the first to be performed in the Tim Faulkner Gallery’s found-space theater. The Rocky Horror Show provided for experimentation with pre-recorded music. The company was fortunate to cast pop star and local restaurateur Karter Louis as Dr. Frank-n-Furter. For Louis, acting with this company was a perfect opportunity to participate in AAC’s cause on a personal level, as he had recently lost his own mother to cancer.
When it comes to charity, this group means business. Having already donated $100,000 for a teen room to Gilda’s Club as well as Ellie Cat Crew, the company decided to focus their energy on one organization. According to Sisk, this “…unites what we are doing with who we are helping.” In pledging an impressive $500,000 to Kosair Children’s Hospital’s Addison Jo Blair Cancer Care, AAC proceeds will go towards funding an art therapy program for the pediatric hospital. The company also intends to host an art exhibit, Redefining Normal, during the upcoming Next to Normal, which will display art created by patients involved in that very program.
So is Acting against Cancer a theater or a charity? Remy Sisk has the perfect response:” We are a theater with a cause.” As they strive to reach their monetary goal while planning a three-production season for a more robust audience, Sisk explains that their mission continues to be to “…maintain the facade of theater while operating as a charity.” There are several different outlets through which patrons may donate, including the group’s website, capital campaigns and direct-mail donations. Another indication of their coming of age is their plan for more mature and “respectable” content in their choice of shows Even if they do think of themselves first as a charity, there is real ambition Sisk and company’s artistic mission as well. Clearly, this is one group that can balance both missions.
Acting Against Cancer has come a long way from that basement production of Annie. With challenging productions planned for the future, remarkable philanthropic endeavors, and a firm grasp on their identity as an organization, AAC is ready to play with the big kids.
Next To Normal
January 30 – February 8, 2015
The MeX Theatre
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
For tickets: Kentuckycenter.com
[box_light]Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for Leo Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading![/box_light]