by James Garcia Jr.
In January of 2010, Artistic Director and driving force, Lissa Engstrom, founded The E & e Performing Arts Center in Kingsburg. One of its intents was to bring theater and instill a love of performing into the community, which was home to her and her husband, Corey.
In July of that year, Lissa sat down with Kings River Life Magazine and discussed with us just what she had in mind for the center as well as what her future hopes were. We learned that they worked out of Kingsburg Community Church and had many programs and performances planned. A year later they have a brand new building, a bigger staff and much to offer.
Kings River Life Magazine thought it would be a great idea to check back with Lissa and see how they were doing.
James: Has E & e’s mission statement changed since last July or has it been reaffirmed?
Lissa: Reaffirmed. Kingsburg is really getting involved as a community. People have signed up for classes, we have two good shows cast for July and August and we are excited to start several new programs.
James: In July, you explained that long-term goals for E & e were to include a lot of summer activities. With Creative Storytellers, Musical Theater, Village Voices and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, is this exactly what you had in mind?
Lissa: Yes. I feel we should be offering more because I think the interest is there. Right now we are working on applying for grants and getting our staff set up.
James: You expressed a desire to have your own building, which you now have; how did this come about? Can you take us on the journey that saw you go from working out of a church to holding The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet and the Kingsburg High School All-Star Alumni Jazz Concert in your own place?
Lissa: We have worked with Wigh Properties since last year. It has been an awesome experience being involved in planning what the building would look like from the ground up. Countless hours of meetings, discussions and prayer led us to what it looks like now. We decided to become non-profit in January and by May had the paperwork for being a non-profit corporation. Several community members have supported and helped us create this vision and make it a reality.
Corey and I have put everything we’ve had into this business and we hope it only continues to grow. As far as the shows, as Artistic Director I hope to keep bringing a variety of shows to our venue. The jazz show was a dream (that) EJ and Dale (Engstrom) made happen. It was a sold-out show and we hope to continue the tradition in the future. And each semester we’ll hope to have one of our acting classes perform a short show at the end of their training.
James: The last time we spoke the staff was very small. Today your website lists 15 staff members. Can you tell us about this? Is this where you thought you would be about a year later? How does the size of your staff reflect where you are versus where you hope to be in another year?
Lissa: Right now our staff is primarily volunteers, so we rotate often who is doing what job. At the same time, Corey and I are training and working with Laura Vallenari on our staff handbook, expectations and procedures. We will probably be opening up new staff positions as our business grows. Some of our staff only comes down for (the) summer or Christmas season.
James: How have your long-term goals changed? What’s next? Is there a concern that things are happening too quickly? Is there a concerted effort to grow steadily as opposed to too quickly?
Lissa: No, I feel we are on the right track. We have many opportunities and interest in what we can bring to our venue—my focus is that we choose wisely and maintain a professional and reputable program. Our clients are the most important (thing) to us.
James: To the uninformed, it would appear that much has happened “overnight.” How much of this is true and how much would be false?
Lissa: Corey and I have been working on E & e since November 2009. Our building has been planned since November 2010. We continue to work on equipping our building. We hope to receive funding for some equipment and education programs.
James: How has the community of Kingsburg “bought in” to what E & e has to offer? Is this limited to only Kingsburg or are you getting a good response from other communities as well?
Lissa: We get many calls and questions on a daily basis. We have been asked whether we would hold our shows at a larger venue (for example: the Jazz Show sold out 2 days prior). We have about 130 seats and we like the intimacy and unique quality of the space. I expect we’d use the (Kingsburg High School) Little Theater again in the future, but we want our space and programs to fill up. We have students from Clovis, Fresno, Dinuba, Reedley, Hanford and Visalia.
James: How can the community support E & e Performing Arts Center?
Lissa: Well, financially right now we have our “Founding Sponsors” and “Best Seat in the House” sponsorship program. We also have begun taking applications for volunteers. The community can always sign up for our mailing list and come support our shows and events.