‘Being a woman of color’ in the arts isn’t easy, two sisters say. They want Ogden’s Good Company Theatre to be different.

Ogden • Think about strolling into your favourite espresso store or bar. That’s how Camille and Alicia Washington need you to really feel whenever you come via the doorways at Good Firm Theatre.

“It’s not pretentious. It’s approachable,” Camille stated, and “feels such as you.”

The humanities world hasn’t at all times been “accommodating” or “welcoming” to Alicia or her sister, “being a girl of coloration,” she stated.

However they need their theater — the one Black-owned theater in Utah — to be a secure place for audiences and artists “to hone their craft and to take dangers that possibly they’ve been disempowered to take different locations,” they stated.

Now coming into their tenth yr of working Good Firm Theatre, Alicia, 37, and Camille, 38, are excited to welcome again audiences this spring, after months of unconventional productions throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

They started the yr with Tennessee Williams’ “The Two-Character Play” which delves right into a brother and sister’s struggles with psychological sickness.

“Tennessee Williams says it’s his most autobiographical play,” stated Teresa Sanderson, 61, of Layton, who directed Good Firm’s model and who’s identified Alicia since she was a youngster.

The way in which Alicia and Camille see it, the humanities “ought to at all times be adapting” and rising. Their present season runs via Could, with Siena Marilyn Ledger’s “Man and Moon” and Charly Evon Simpson’s “it’s not a visit it’s a journey,” exploring problems with race, friendship and identification.

“It’s at all times been essential to us,” Camille stated, with the exhibits we do, “to be attentive to the instances, our experiences, our location.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Good Firm Theatre acress Natalie Keezer performs “Clare” and Jesse Nepivoda performs “Felice” throughout the theatre’s manufacturing of Tennesee Williams’ “The Two-Character Play:, Feb. 4, 2022, in Ogden.

A dream in a espresso store

The concept for Good Firm lived in Alicia’s thoughts for years earlier than turning into actuality in 2012. When she used to work at Grounds for Espresso, Alicia stated she instructed everybody who got here in that she was an actor who would in the future run her personal theater firm.

Later, Alicia known as Camille, asking if she thought this dream was potential. With Camille’s assist, they began taking steps.

Coming from a efficiency background, Alicia knew find out how to discover individuals and placed on a present, whereas Camille, who had labored extra on the humanities administration aspect, centered on making use of for grants and creating a mission assertion.

The sisters, who’re 18 months aside, have “nearly like an onstage/backstage sort of dynamic,” Camille stated. The older they’ve grow to be, the extra they realized how ”we complement one another,” she stated.

“We annoy one another at instances, for certain. That’s by no means going to go away,” Alicia stated. “However we’ve at all times deeply revered and supported one another immensely.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Good Firm Theatre’s co-directors and sisters, Alicia, left, and Camille Washington, run the one Black-owned theater in Utah

Good Firm’s first residence was in a 1,200-square-foot area on twenty fifth Avenue, above an grownup novelty store. It had a “crumbling infrastructure,” Camille stated, and “our swamp cooler leaked on the viewers.” The sisters had to determine “find out how to block actors throughout their breaks,” Alicia stated, so they might get to their one toilet, situated on the alternative finish of their small dressing room.

The 2 placed on 25 productions in that first area earlier than shifting 5 years in the past to their present – and far larger – two-story location on Wall Avenue. Collectively, they reworked the previous display print store right into a theater, putting in audio system and a lighting grid, portray the stage and reducing via a concrete wall downstairs to make a go for actors.

“I positively painted these flooring,” Camille laughed, pointing down on the blue-gray floor.

“I are available in in the future and he or she has a hammer and chisel, and he or she’s chiseling out the tile,” Alicia added. “I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ She’s like, ‘I hate the tile.’”

“There’s loads of us in” Good Firm, Camille stated. “Our handprints are throughout this place.”

Camille took all of the images hanging on the partitions within the foyer from their previous performs – apart from the picture of a girl behind the concessions stand. That’s Veronica Washington, Camille and Alicia’s aunt, who left her nieces cash after she died that helped get the theater off the bottom.

“She’s our patron saint right here,” Colleen Washington, Alicia and Camille’s mom, stated, smiling.

Washington, 73, of Ogden, is repeatedly within the foyer together with her daughters throughout their exhibits, and he or she watched as they obtained prepared for the Feb. 4 manufacturing of “The Two-Character Play.”

“I feel each dad or mum needs to see their youngsters doing what they like to do,” she stated. “They usually love doing this.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Good Firm Theatre’s co-director Camille Washington greets patrons and serves snacks and drinks throughout the manufacturing of Tennesee Williams’ “The Two-Character Play.” Feb. 4, 2022, in Ogden.

‘What theater could possibly be’

It wasn’t till most likely the previous few months that Alicia stated she acknowledged, whereas speaking with Camille, how “my first massive step into theater” was marred by “racist undertones, to be fairly frank.”

Rising up in Layton, Alicia auditioned for the spring musical “Oklahoma” when she was in seventh grade. To arrange, she studied “Saturday Night time Stay” skits of Gilda Radner performing Roseanne Roseannadanna together with her mother and sister, earlier than selecting The Queen Of Hearts’s “Who’s Been Portray My Roses Purple?” from “Alice in Wonderland” for her audition monologue.

When Alicia was forged as Aunt Eller, there was nearly rapid pushback from dad and mom, who used a derogatory time period for an individual of blended race to argue that the character ought to be performed by somebody who’s white, she stated, “clearly making race a difficulty.” The director stood by Alicia, telling the dad and mom that “she forged me in a job that she noticed me in.”

“That was my first style of the ‘the nice white manner,’” Alicia stated.

And of “what was to come back,” added Camille, who was on the stage crew for that faculty musical.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Good Firm Theatre’s founder and co-director Alicia Washington welcomes patrons for the manufacturing of “The Two-Character Play” by Tennessee Williams, Feb. 4, 2022, in Ogden.

At Good Firm, Camille and Alicia needed “to have a variety of productions that had been extra up to date” and allowed for extra “numerous casting,” they stated.

On the corporate’s web site, the Washingtons state their casting philosophy: “We search to honor the intentions of the playwright as supplied within the script. If the playwright solely presents common character traits, or doesn’t record something in any respect for a particular position, Good Firm Theatre won’t assume the neutrality of a sure particular person or kind over others when casting. …

“We welcome all to audition, no matter race, ethnicity, gender, age, capability, or another bodily attribute.”

Alicia stated, “We confronted our personal obstacles being in visible arts after which theater alongside the years, of individuals placing upon me how they wish to expertise or see theater, versus unlocking what theater could possibly be.”

She remembers going to a casting name in New York when she was older for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical “Within the Heights.” Wanting across the room, there have been eight different girls, “and all of us sort of appeared the identical,” she stated.

“That was actually affirming, going again to the “Oklahoma second”, the place I used to be Aunt Eller, and I stood out,” Alicia stated, “whereas … the whole lot about me was being embraced on this specific second.”

In a play collectively

There’s little or no that separates the viewers from the actors at Good Firm Theatre. It’s a black field theater, with rows of black chairs wrapping carefully across the stage in a U-shape.

On the Feb. 4 manufacturing of “The Two-Character Play,” viewers members sat so shut that they might see the tears roll down actor Jesse Nepivoda’s cheeks in an emotional scene.

At one among their first exhibits on Wall Avenue, “we had an viewers member come out,” Alicia stated, “and be like, ‘I can’t actually get into it.’” The person felt “actually delay” seeing the viewers members sitting throughout from him and stated, “I discover myself watching their reactions.”

Alicia recalled that she instructed the person, “as an alternative of feeling such as you’re on show, I encourage you to consider your self as … the collective,” experiencing the play collectively. Possibly that may make him extra snug throughout the second act, she stated.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Patrons to Good Firm Theatre stretch their legs at intermission throughout the theatre’s manufacturing of Tennesee Williams’ “The Two-Character Play,” Feb. 4, 2022, in Ogden.

“He got here out,” Alicia stated, “and he was like, ‘I did that. I really like the present. I didn’t understand that it was OK that they had been watching me, or I used to be watching them, as a result of we had been in these moments along with the actors.’”

Alicia then caught herself, including, “I’m certain he didn’t use moments. That’s such a theater factor to say,” she laughed. However that scenario captures how individuals can attempt new issues and be weak at Good Firm, she stated.

Alicia and Camille needed to get artistic and take a look at new issues themselves when the coronavirus pandemic started in 2020. They began the Window Seat Classes, the place performers might keep secure inside whereas placing on a brief present via massive home windows for an viewers seated exterior, with the sound piped out onto the sidewalk.

Then they moved absolutely exterior, placing on ”Catharsis Two”, a musical political satire, from their parking zone, nonetheless with distanced seating. And final fall, they moved productions again inside, with “Fremont Junior Excessive Is NOT Doing Oklahoma!,” requiring viewers members to put on masks and present proof of vaccination.

The uncertainty and stress of working a theater throughout a pandemic has solely made it “clearer how a lot that is … our identification,” Alicia stated, and the way the sisters present up for his or her neighborhood.

Tickets

“Man and Moon” runs March 24 via April 10, and “it’s not a visit it’s a journey” runs Could 5 to 22 at Good Firm Theatre, 2404 Wall Ave. in Ogden.

Tickets are $25 for common admission and $17 with a legitimate pupil ID on the door. Go to www.goodcotheatre.com.

Face masks and proof of COVID-19 vaccination are required to attend. Extra info is on the market at goodcotheatre.com/covid-19-policy

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Patrons enter Good Firm Theatre to see “The Two-Character Play” by Tennessee Williams, Feb. 4, 2022, in Ogden.

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes concerning the standing of ladies in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps preserve her writing tales like this one; please take into account making a tax-deductible reward of any quantity at this time by clicking right here.

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