Back Alley Productions in LaFayette is bringing the theatrical arts to the area with a variety of performances fit for everyone -- and the artistic buzz is growing.
Back Alley Productions (BAP) held its first production at the reopened Mars Theatre District located at 117 North Chattanooga St. in LaFayette in May 2016 with the play "Death of a Salesman."
Since then, the theatre has hosted a variety of performances featuring local talent.
Asked how 2016 was for the theatre group, BAP's Chris Smith said, "We moved into the Mars Theatre last year with the idea that we’d get some kind of audience. But we didn’t expect the level of support we got. It really means a lot to us to see a group of diverse people come together for the common goal of putting on live theater. We’ve had pastors, lawyers, community leaders, blue collar workers, high schoolers, businessmen and woman and entire families join us on various shows."
Smith said what BAP really loves about theater is that it demands collaboration and humility to succeed.
"That makes it a place of common ground for people who might not normally cross paths," Smith said. "It’s people of different backgrounds, ages, religious and political views, coming together to perform for the community. The arts are at there best when they bring different people together to create understanding and friendship. We think LaFayette was just hungry for this kind of organization."
As far as growth in the theatre, Smith said BAP really started to notice the wave of support around July 2016, which began to peak in October with "War of the Worlds," to which most shows were sold out for the next showcase of "It’s A Wonderful Life" held in December 2016.
"We sold more than 1,200 tickets total, which, for a theater company of our size in our first year at a new venue, that’s pretty incredible and honestly more than we expected," Smith said. "We’ve met a lot of amazing people, too. We’ve had some people come to our shows who haven’t been in the Mars Theatre since the 1950s, and they’ll tell us stories about when they were younger, or when they met the love of their life here, or what classic movie they saw when it showed films. It sparks a lot of memories for people. The history of this building is very rich. It’s a true gem."
In 2017, BAP is offering a full season with a different show each month.
"That brings a lot of logistical challenges, but it’s really mostly just exciting and fun and busy. There’s this special one-of-a-kind energy you feel when the theater is packed with all these different people bustling in and out of rehearsals. You can really see how word of mouth has helped us get off the ground. We’re hoping to double our audience attendance by the end of the year. Fingers crossed!"
BAP started in 2011 with a crew of 10 people.
Kaylee Smith started the company and has served as executive producer since the theatre's inception.
"At first it was just her, some close friends and family. We were just planning to put on one show. But as we took off, more and more people joined the team. We’ve grown to incorporate a board of directors and a roster of seven active directors. We’ve had about 80 individuals rotate through our cast and crew, and it just keeps growing," Smith said.
Smith said the group has became a family over the past seven seasons.
"It’s one of the reasons we try to be a place of openness and opportunity for anyone who wants to get involved. Theater changes lives," Smith said.
Visit BAPshows.com to learn more of the next full season.
"But at a minimum we always offer one free Shakespeare show (this year is “The Twelfth Night"), a suspense Halloween show (this year is “The Woman in Black”) and a family-focused Christmas show (this year is “A Christmas Carol”). For the rest of our lineup, we try and go out of our way to find plays that are not being offered anywhere nearby," Smith said.
Most of the group started together as teens and college students, but have grown into adulthood together and that change is reflecting in their shows.
"This year we’re offering a lot of grownup dramas: 'A Few Good Men,' 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,' 'Ordinary People,' 'The Glass Menagerie,' 'The Crucible.' We started last year with one of the heaviest dramas out there with 'Death of a Salesman.' We were kind of unsure how people would receive it since it’s such a downer. But people loved it, so we know there’s an audience for these serious shows that don’t always offer nice, happy endings. Dramas can be very cathartic," Smith said.
"We don’t want to be serious all the time, though, so we’re also offering a lot of fun shows this year including 'Deathtrap' and 'Lost in Yonkers.' In March, we’re opening the season with 'Irish Courage,' which is our take on a classic Irish script called 'The Playboy of the Western World.' Think of it as a big huge celebration of Irish culture, with song and dance. We’ve had some bluegrass musicians come together and learn some old-timey Irish limericks (bluegrass has roots in Irish culture), so it’s going to be a very fun, immersive experience," Smith said.
One of the shows BAP is very excited for this year is “It’s A Disaster,” which is being adapted from the cult classic movie from 2012 of the same name.
"We’re working directly with the producer, who is currently shooting 'Still The King' in Nashville, to be one of the first theaters to produce a stage adaptation. It took us about two years of back-and-forth emails to work out the details, but it paid off. The story is about a group of somewhat shallow couples who host an annual brunch, but their relationships with each other have gotten strained over the years so it’s become brunch for the sake of tradition. It’s awkward and tense for the first bit of the play, and then the end of the world occurs trapping these couples together in the apocalypse. It’s a dark comedy, but it’s so funny," he said.
Smith said there is also plans in the works for a children’s theater program, but details are still being worked out.