Alicia Washington, a Weber State University musical theater 2010 alumna, grew a vague notion into a dream into the intimate theater space called Good Company Theatre that opened Nov. 2, 2012 on Ogden’s Historic 25th Street.
Having seen “parlor-style” theater in New York and Chicago, Washington determined that Ogden itself was a perfect place for that kind of theater, and then she set about finding the perfect space to support her vision. Support from the Ogden City Arts Council, a personal source and the community has made her dream not only a reality, but exceeded some of her expectations already. For “The Vagina Monologues” in February, Good Company had to borrow seats because the demand was so high.
When Washington created her first season, she aimed for diversity. With each production, she said, she wants to expand that diversity beyond “what we usually see on the Utah scene. . . . As an African-American actress, I’ve had some limitations in roles. . . . It was really important for me that each piece has a strong female point of view. I just feel there are so many stories out there that aren’t being told, and I wanted to add my say to the mix.”
Washington chose the third production in her season’s lineup, “Cowboy Mouth,” because she felt Sam Shepherd was a “playwright people could get behind.” Known for Western themes and settings in his plays and screenwriting, Shepherd paired with Patti Smith, the strong female voice that Washington gravitates toward, and together Shepherd and Smith created “Cowboy Mouth,” the autobiographical account of their own love affair told through the haze of rock-n-roll and all that it stood for still in the early ’70s.
“With each show, we’re trying to see what the community wants to see, fulfill the way patrons want to come see theater, because it’s such a new endeavor,” Washington said. “When picking out the season . . . it’s a little bit of everything. They’re mostly about relationships . . . understanding something about a current relationship or a past relationship.”
Nicole Finney, the WSU acting and directing theater student who created the lighting design for “Charm,” which went to festival in February, directs the play, using the same actors (Austin Archer and Emilie Starr) she used when she directed it as a one-act in WSU’s Eccles Theater in 2011.
“We (Washington and Finney) hadn’t worked directly together; she was an upperclassman, but we’d seen one another’s work,” Finney said. “I wanted to relaunch the one-act I had done in 2011 . . . so I approached Alicia and asked her about it and it just worked out.”
From Washington’s viewpoint, “Finney is such a strong, intelligent, sensitive, female director and actor that what she brings to this piece is important.”
How Good Company Theatre came about is its own drama.
“There was a group of us about two or three years ago that met at the gallery opened by Caril Jennings,” Washington said, “and I always loved that she opened something downtown, an art space, and I will always be eternally grateful to her. I wanted to keep that (same kind of) thing alive . . . and I thought, ‘Maybe I can just do this on my own, and I want to work with my (theater) friends and the community.’”
After Washington started looking at spaces, including a place called Bob’s Garage, where she could do unconventional theater, until she finally toured the space located above the City Club and fell in love with it immediately. She hit it off with the then-owner, himself a lover of the arts, immediately. Negotiating ensued, and the story keeps unfolding.
“The community has been amazing, just in general, in being with Good Company,” Washington said, “because it really is something all its own. It’s not like you’re coming to a space; you’re coming into the space, you’re in their apartment (the characters of the play). . . . It really gets you back to the storytelling. I’m a very presentational person, and I wanted to really see it all happening right in front of me . . . and I know I have friends that want to go there with me. . . . Good Company is a platform so we can all have a place to work, a jumping-off point.”
“Cowboy Mouth” is Finney’s directorial debut outside of WSU.
“It’s been a challenge putting it into a more intimate space,” she said. “I have to look at it from all different sides. It’s interesting to come back to a piece and see how you’ve grown, the actors have grown, how your perspectives have changed. You read things more deeply . . . dig deeper, explore more the second time around. It’s been really nice to do that and really exciting.”
“The characters are volatile,” Finney said. “There’s content and the stage is small. It’s (going to be) an experience.”
“Cowboy Mouth” runs every Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 4 p.m., April 5-20. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at http://www.goodcotheatre.com.