For a number of years, the Downriver theater scene appeared to be headed for a downfall.
The lights dimmed on some longtime community theater groups, leaving just a few companies to carry the torch.
But with newer troupes such as Open Book Theatre Company, The Downriver Actors Guild and The AKT Theatre Project sprouting up, local theater seems to be alive and kicking once again.
Adriane Galea’s new studio, Arts Detroit, is at the forefront of the resurgence.
Offering a broad-based performing arts education through acting, piano and voice opportunities, the Allen Park studio is part of Galea’s Center Stage Studios, which she founded about five years ago.
“Center Stage didn’t go exactly as I’d planned and Arts Detroit is under that umbrella,” Galea, 30, said.
Construction began last weekend on the facility, and a grand opening is planned Feb. 23. Open houses, during which parents can sign up their children for free sample lessons, also are in the works in the next few months.
Outvisible Theatre Company and The MT Project, a mentoring program for high school students who want to pursue theater after they graduate, are two additional arms of the Arts Detroit studio.
A large portion of the students Galea teaches are in high school, and some have their sights set on majoring in musical theater.
“It’s so specific as to what’s required and so unrealistically competitive,” she said. “I want to do something about that.
“The college audition coaching and mentoring – there’s nobody really around here to work with and I aim to do it by answering questions, looking at resumes and videos and offering advice for free.”
A veteran of the Downriver theater scene, Galea began teaching piano at age 13 and has taught voice for nearly 10 years.
Arts Detroit strives to empower students to find their inspiration and express it through their art, and to possess the confidence to do so, according to its mission statement. Additionally, Galea hopes to help each student understand, recognize and appreciate the unique and inestimable abilities they and their peers hold, as well as to impress upon and excite them to appreciate the fine arts.
“My focus is on education, but that doesn’t mean I want all youth actors,” she said about the theater company. “The company itself is geared toward professional and pre-professional shows.
“It will be open to adults and have at least one production that allows for youth this season.”
Outvisible’s first show, “Cagebirds,” a story by David Campton, follows six girls trapped in a cage under the control of a woman known as The Mistress. Each girl takes on a birdlike persona as they live trapped inside their own petty interests. When The Wild One is brought into captivity, she urges the girls to see their situation for what it is and free themselves.
“It’s a short, one-act play for all females,” she said. “It’s a little political and a little bit underdeveloped, but the concept is so cool.
“I found it by looking through monologues for high school girls. It’s rich with material for young girls. It’s got some standout monologues and seemed like a really viable option for a first show that wasn’t going to break the bank.”
An adult woman will be cast in the role of The Mistress, but each of the other roles is intended to be cast as high school females, though women who could play high school-age may be considered.
Auditions are set for 7:30 p.m. Jan 17 in Allen Park, with scheduled time slots every five minutes. Actors should come prepared with one monologue of less than 90 seconds. High school students who cannot prepare a monologue may come with something that can be recited from memory with interpretation – song lyrics, a poem, etc. All actors should bring a current theatrical resume and headshot or a recent 8-by-10 photograph.
Galea will direct the show with performance dates set for April 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9.
The intimate studio space lends itself to such shows, she added.
“The space is unique in that it’s so small,” she said. “The theater is not going to hold more than 30 people; it’s a very small black box, movable space.
“The whole concept is to create shows that are more imaginative. The space is too small for sets, so we’ll bring shows to life through creativity and design.”
While she didn’t set out to find a small space, she’s happy with how things worked out.
“It lends itself to how I prefer to direct,” she said. “And I have an amazing lighting designer, Harley Miah, who’s won a Wilde Award. I can’t sing his praises enough. He’s really shown me how things can be accomplished through lighting.”
A second show – most likely a musical – will be staged the last two weekends in June.
Galea has an experienced staff on board to help her get the studio off the ground.
Grosse Ile native Kirsten Sparks, a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York who has performed professionally across the world, will serve as vocal and musical theater instructor.
“She will be the one focusing on working with little kids as young as 3 years old, through group classes,” Galea said.
Joining her as a vocal instructor is Lathrup Village resident John Hummel, who holds a master’s degree in voice performance from the University of Michigan.
“He’s going to work with students that have reached the voice change or above – so ages 12 or 13 and up,” she said.
Theater workshops will be offered during the summer. Galea plans to announce the full 2016-17 season next month.
To schedule an audition appointment for “Cagebirds,” email firstname.lastname@example.org. Those without an audition appointment will be seen on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information, to request an audition appointment, or to download an audition form, visit outvisibletheatre.com.