Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: Theater Artists Olympia


Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Robert Kam sat down with Michael Christopher, founding member and president, and John Serembe, vice president, of Theater Artists Olympia.

Theater Artists Olympia (TAO) is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to making theater accessible to the Thurston County community, particularly underrepresented and “untamed” theater.

This year marks the 20th year of the TAO. “It was a lot of work,” Christopher says about starting up almost two decades ago. “Our original purpose – drive – was that we were a traveling theater company. We never anticipated having a space, so all our shows were designed and built in such a way that they could get plopped into a couple vehicles, driven to a space, set up fairly quick and perform in multiple locations.”

TAO continued to operate that way for many years, until they eventually took over the Midnight Sun space in downtown Olympia. Now, they have a black box theater located in Capital Mall. Black box is a type of performance space that is small, usually square, and has black walls and floor. The focus for performances set on these stages is on the performers, and will have very simple set design and minimal props. The affect is a more intimate performance for the audience.

Originally Broadway Olympia Productions was using the space for rehearsals. Kyle Murphy of Broadway Olympia contacted TAO and asked them if they wanted to use the space at the Mall as a theater. “It’s a great little space. It’s so interesting that the mall has branched out on what they’re doing,” shares Christopher. “Like there’s the library there now and so having them pivoting and having things outside of just standard retail, I think, is really fantastic and I think it’s a lot of fun to get some theater onto the westside, there’s never been like a centralized, live theater on the west side of town.”

They did one show called “The One Act Play That Goes Wrong,” and found the space worked for performances. At the prompting of Murphy, TAO took over running the space from Broadway Olympia. Murphy is now a member of the TAO and they are working on reimagining the space. “We are going to reimagine the space a little bit, as opposed to just being the BOP space – as it’s now known – it’s going to become the Olympia Theater – Oly Theater is what we’ll call ourselves,” shares Christopher. “And that’ll be a space that ideally we’re envisioning Theater Arts Olympia as the artists in residence – so we’ll do shows there maybe four times a year – and then have other companies come in and use the space under the Oly Theater name.”

Juice Box Theater will be putting on shows specifically for children. Tickets will be just $5 for the 20 minute shows.

For more information, watch the full video above and visit the Theater Artists Olympia website and the Oly Theater website. You can support the space by making a donation and buying tickets to shows. Artist groups can contact them about renting the space for their performances.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thurston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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