Vision seems to be the driving force for The Classics Theatre Project.
Joey Folsom, a Dallas actor and director, considers the purpose of a theater company to be to get people in the room where they might find "a moment of humanity and empathy." And in this highly polarized moment, that would be a service to the community.
Folsom and arts manager Gregory Patterson have formed a theater company dedicated to producing classic plays of the 19th and 20th centuries. Folsom, who will serve as the company’s artistic director, says the intent of The Classics Theatre Project is to add a "new dynamic to the cultural landscape of Dallas" by producing timeless works that remain socially relevant.
Folsom, 34, studied theater at Collin College and the University of North Texas in Denton. Folsom acted and directed in Dallas and served as the artistic director of Upstart Productions. During a production about country singer Hank Williams in 2013 at WaterTower Theatre in Addison, Folsom met Patterson, WaterTower’s managing director at the time.
In the fall of 2017, Folsom shared his vision for classical theater with Patterson. Folsom believes the classics are "foundational and still resonate today," serving to "reveal what is true." He remembers an acting teacher in college telling him that each night he should seek to "find one moment of truth." He regards it as the duty of theater "to enrich the culture of the community" and says that if it doesn’t, "we are not doing our job."
Patterson believed the city could support another theater company, and he began to gauge interest in a company that would exclusively present classic pieces.
"The response was overwhelmingly positive," Patterson says.
The two formed a nonprofit and quickly raised seed money to present their first production of a three-play season, Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, which will open June 23 in temporary space at the Trinity River Arts Center.
"First and foremost, this play is about the haves and the have-nots, the 1 percent and the 99 percent," Patterson says. "It is a conversation about class structure and the shifting dynamics that happen in a country undergoing political change."
Folsom reiterates that "social relevance is magnetic north on the programming compass."
The Classics Theatre Project doesn’t have an agenda, Folsom says, but his goal is to make classic theater more accessible and welcoming to an audience member who may feel alienated from theater.
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He and Patterson hope to reach a broad range of theatergoers rather than the stratified audience that Folsom says he often sees.
"Older people go to the bigger houses while younger people go to the newer stuff," he says. "The classics speak to audiences of all ages and races because often the stories they tell are as compelling and timely today as they were when first written."
The Classics Theatre Project hasn't announced its full season to allow for more flexibility in regard to play selection. It also does not have a permanent theater space.
"Not having a home space gives us the advantages of choosing each performance space to match the production we're mounting," Folsom says.