Smokestack Theatre: Bringing Art Back

Passion, in its truest form, is sensory. Passion is meant to be seen, it is meant to be heard; it is meant to be felt. Passion is what The Smokestack Theatre Company is built upon.

Danville’s River District welcomed The Smokestack Theatre Company (STC) to the community in September. At its roots, STC is a group of artists dedicated to sharing quality and culturally rich theatre with the region. Prior development in the River District acted as a falling domino to the establishment of the theatre. The evolution of Danville’s downtown area motivated Managing Director, Josh Lucia, in his vision for the theatre. With more and more restaurants, businesses, and opportunities making their debuts in the community, Lucia desired to contribute to the growth of the area. “I have been observing all the exciting progress in, specifically, the River District. I felt a theatre would be a perfect fit, and that people living, working, and visiting the district were hungry for what we could bring,” says Lucia. Lucia broke ground on the theatre with help from James Anderson, Artistic Director. James became dedicated to the theatre’s founding the second Josh introduced the idea to him. “My inspiration to create STC with Josh comes from recognizing the potential for a thriving arts community to flourish in this region,” says James.

The name of the theatre found influence from downtown Danville. The “Smokestack” Theatre is intended to be a respectful reminiscence of the Dan River Mill. The theatre’s logo alludes to the three smoke stacks that belonged to the mill and still stand tall in Schoolfield. Lucia, being brought up in Pittsylvania County, remembers not only the importance of the Dan River Mill but also the effect it had and continues to have on Danville. Lucia recalls the smokestacks from his childhood being a sort of beacon to the community, something everyone in the city and county could lay their eyes on from any height or distance. The creators of STC have hopes the theatre will serve just as the smokestacks did and still do, a theatre for everyone, and for every region.

The Smokestack Theatre Company possess an abundantly talented staff, some with as much as 40 years of experience in the theatre, and not one of them with less than twenty years of theatre under their belt. James Anderson, Kristen Williams, Linda Zimmerman, Mark Harrelson, and Rachel Timm are each an accomplice to Josh Lucia in his valiant effort to get the region involved in something great. Each admits to a burning passion for the theatre. Kristen Williams’s, Education Director, reasoning behind her affection for theatre is shared with everyone involved. “I love that you can take on a roll. You can be an old woman. You can be someone from another state, country, time period, or planet. I love when I get to see the look on the faces in the audience. I love the smell. I love the sound. I love the sense of family that theatre brings. There is not a part of the theatre experience that I would trade.” This feeling is something that the theatre hopes to bestow upon those eager to get involved with STC.

The carefully chosen staff have each been impacted so strongly by the theatre, whether it be when they were ten-years old starring in their first play or realizing at thirty the stage is where they belong, that they want to give the same opportunity to those in the community. Linda Zimmerman, Communications Director, expresses what she is most excited to see become of this theatre, “I am just overwhelmed with the thought of being able to help people step out of their own reality one show or event at a time.”

STC hopes to offer a season consisting of four main shows for the public to enjoy. The theatre, still in search for a permanent location, will be holding a number of acting classes for all ages. By offering these opportunities, STC aspires to assist individuals in finding his or her place, not only in the theatre, but in this world. Rachel Timm, Education Liaison, reveals that the theatre helped her discover herself. “Theatre enabled me to overcome my shyness and gain confidence. Theatre breaks down boundaries and reveals things about ourselves and the world around us.”

“Danville is changing, growing, and I believe that we have a great plan to build a theatre group everyone can enjoy and be proud of,” says Mark Harrelson, Theatre Liaison. With the stage curtains drawing back, The Smokestack Theatre is ready to start their show. The company is optimistic that they are going to have much success. Kristen Williams says, “Where there is smoke… (you know the rest).”