by Lorie Lewis Ham
Theater Arts Alliance in Visalia is the new theatre kid on the block in the area, having just come together in 2015 with their inaugural season starting with the Nutcracker Ballet last November. We took a moment to chat with one of their founders, and their resident music director, Chavaleh Forgey.
KRL: Who started Theater Arts Alliance and why?
Chavaleh: Lim (Forgey) and I. We have great theater in Visalia, but we desired to create a company that encompassed all of the performing arts and connected the talent in Visalia with the larger national performing community. Our goal for each show is to use local talent and professionals from other places, so that our community can rub shoulders with people who are living theater at the national level. (Lim is their artistic director).
We have had this dream for a long time—along with our resident choreographer, Rachel Thompson, we bring to the table a love not only of musical theater but also of ballet, opera, and classical theater. We wanted to create a company that allied all the performing arts together and also allied with other local companies.
KRL: How do you pick your shows?
Chavaleh: It is a long process that balances the needs of the community, local talent we wish to showcase, and great and entertaining works.
KRL: Will you have shows all year long?
KRL: What type of shows have you done, and are you doing in the future?
Chavaleh: This season started with the Nutcracker Balletand continued with Puccini’s great opera Madama Butterfly in early March, and then Young Frankenstein, a hilarious PG-13 Mel Brooks musical romp in May; Beauty and the Beast this summer; and The Little Mermaid in October.
KRL: Where are you located?
Chavaleh: We are associated with the Visalia Arts Consortium, and hold most rehearsals there: we rent theater spaces appropriate for each performance.
KRL: Why do you feel theatre is important to the community?
Chavaleh: The arts tell our stories, the arts connect us. Theater is a unique opportunity for a shared experience that brings a community closer together, especially groups of people who would not be connected in other ways.
KRL: What do you feel your company has to offer that may be unique or different from other local theatre companies?
Chavaleh: We bring a broader range of projects than most companies, and our connections on the national level offer local actors a chance to make these connections as well.
KRL: What type of shows do you plan to do?
Chavaleh: Musical theater, opera, ballet, concerts, and straight plays are all on the agenda!
KRL: Do you hold open auditions for each show?
Chavaleh: Yes, at the beginning of the season.
KRL: Am I correct that you also teach classes? If so, can you tell me about those?
Chavaleh: I am a professional vocal coach (this is my “day job”), as well as a conductor. TAA also sponsors workshops and master classes with performing arts professionals, such as the audition workshop recently with J. Ryan Carroll, who is playing Carmen Ghia on The Producers National Tour. He did a class with us during his Fresno stop, and we have workshops scheduled with other cast members in conjunction with all the national tours that come through Fresno. This is part of our mission to help local talent make national connections.
KRL: Is everyone a volunteer?
Chavaleh: No. This is a professional company and everyone gets paid something. It is our goal to be to Equity scale within three years.
KRL: How much are tickets for your shows?
Chavaleh: Cost varies: Madama Butterfly was $25-$35.
KRL: Anything else you feel would be important to share?
Chavaleh: We are committed to bringing the best quality theater to Visalia. We believe in this community and our ability to bring production value that rivals the national scale.
KRL: Website, Facebook, Twitter?
Editor’s note: This interview was originally conducted before their production of Madama Butterfly. Chavaleh let KRL know that it was a great success.
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