Writer: Jerrica DuBois
2 min read May 2023 — As Alamo City’s entertainment sector continues to gain strength and look toward the future, Invest: sat down with Jimmy Moore, producing artistic director for The Classic Theatre of San Antonio, and E. Loren Meeker, general and artistic Director for OPERA San Antonio. The pair shared their recent milestones as well as their thoughts on the importance of education and local support of arts and culture.
What have been some of the biggest highlights over the past year?
Jimmy Moore: We have made great strides in reaching further into the community, partnering with local organizations, inspiring more performers and practitioners to work with us, and telling more diverse stories to broaden our audience. We began the season with Roosters by Milcha Sanchez-Scott, a wonderful Latinx production that benefited from the culturally rich environment of a downtown, site-specific setting. After that, we produced A Christmas Carol at a historic home. Our production was a one-performer retelling of the story starring a wheelchair user playing all the characters himself. It was a beautiful moment of visibility for people with disabilities in San Antonio because they were able to see someone like themselves on stage. It also offered The Classic the opportunity to learn more about how to include and better serve actors and audience members with disabilities. Our next show, August Wilson’s Fences, really blew it out of the park. It was an extremely successful production, and it played to sold-out audiences. People responded in droves, showing that the city is ready to hear diverse stories and see more of our community represented on stage.
Loren Meeker: OSA’s education and community programs have almost tripled from where we were pre-pandemic to where we are now. By the end of 2023 we will have performed over 70 times across San Antonio and neighboring areas. I credit OSA Education Director, Madeline Elizondo, for offering a wide array of events across all 10 city districts here in San Antonio. As a nonprofit, we are dedicated to serving our community, to strengthening the cultural fabric of the city, so it’s important to get ourselves out of the theater and into new venues; to make opera accessible and to provide free experiences for San Antonio.
Before the pandemic, we presented two operas a year at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. This season we have expanded to include a third opera, Maria de Buenos Aires. This is the first time OSA has produced a Spanish language piece and the community was instantly excited for this opera. The show was 100% sold out. It is fantastic to say that the arts are not struggling, they are thriving here in San Antonio.
What is Classic Theatre’s role in arts and education?
Moore: COVID impacted the performing arts in a multitude of ways that most people may not realize. At The Classic, we had to let go of our education program not only because we lost staff members but also because it was hard to get kids together and keep them safe. In Summer 2023, we are excited to finally be bringing back our summer camps at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. There will be several sessions. The focus will be on the love of theater and storytelling, including Mexican folk tales, fairy tales, and classics. Parents can bring their children to experience the beauty of the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, a great community partner for us, and expose them to arts and culture. Theater education is life education, teaching children how to present themselves, speak to a crowd, and access their creativity, which will be helpful in whatever they choose to do in life.
How are you adapting and leveraging new technologies?
Meeker: In 2020, we pivoted and produced seven different virtual, interactive experiences for the first time in company history. Those initiatives were super-exciting; we went online with education programs, we partnered with Houston Grand Opera and Austin Opera to produce two operatic films, we created online donor programming – all of which had never existed before the pandemic. And although we’re back to live productions today, you can still access many of these programs online. Our award winning educational video series, “Explore Opera for Kids!” is free for teachers; they’re still used in about 20 to 30 schools a year, which is phenomenal. Some of the programs we started in the digital pandemic period we’ve converted to in-person experiences. Technology is helping OSA redefine what it means to be an opera company.
What makes San Antonio an ideal place for the arts and culture scene?
Moore: San Antonio is one of the most culturally rich cities in the nation. There is a lot of artistic talent in San Antonio and it has a unique cultural perspective, which is wonderful. The city also has ample space to grow that perspective and include more people, cultures, and stories. In my role, I aim to represent more of San Antonio on our stage and to broaden the definition of classic theatre. I believe we’ve been very successful in doing so. This has become the most diverse season in our history, highlighting stories and performers from several backgrounds in excellent productions. The San Antonio population is hungry for quality arts experiences, and that is precisely what we are working to bring.
How well does the city or county support arts and culture and what does that ideal framework look like?
Meeker: We are grateful for the support from the city and the county. To have strong support for the arts in San Antonio is lucky, not every city in the nation makes a big commitment to the art. We’re genuinely grateful for our partnerships, and we look forward to growing together. There is this perception that opera is a big, inaccessible artform that is only meant to be experienced by an elite group of people. Thanks to support from the city and county we are able to break down barriers and misconceptions. Opera combines all the performing arts – orchestral music, vocal music, dance, fashion, architecture, visual art; you name it, we have it. It’s powerful, emotional, universal stories, set to stunning music. Our programs are specifically designed to help give exposure to the arts and to help make the arts feel welcoming. When we are successful at that, we help raise the cultural profile of San Antonio and we help build the economy.
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