New Directions 

Pollard Theatre Company Opens Season 34 under new leadership

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2020 was a time of reset for the performing arts. The pandemic brought the entire industry to a standstill, and in the meantime, artists and technicians were forced to look inward. Many things need to change about the per- forming arts industry, and change happens first in our own communities. Artists need safe spaces to work, and patrons need to be given the full story.

What happens behind the scenes is more often a toxic environment than not. The shift occurs when those who make theatre happen – directors, choreographers, board members, and actors – make conscious decisions to create and maintain safe working conditions. The industry as a whole is finally starting to change for the better.

The Pollard Theatre in Guthrie stood alone for many years amongst other theatres in the Oklahoma City area. Pollard Theatre’s former artistic director W. Jerome Stevenson had a large role in making The Pollard what it is today. Thanks to his thoughtful, collaborative leadership, The Pollard is the

inviting, comfortable, and safe environment that this community needs. It was with protecting this legacy in mind that Stevenson set out to find a replacement for his own role. Stevenson stepped down as artistic director early this year, taking a new career path and focusing on other endeavors. Prior to leaving, Stevenson made the choice to select longtime company member Jared Blount to take over as artistic director.

Blount has over twenty years’ experience in the theatre industry. He joined the Pollard Theatre Company in 2011 as an actor, and became the director of media in 2015. Blount has performed in multiple roles at The Pollard, including starring as Leo Bloom in their 2017 pro- duction of The Producers, then in an acclaimed role as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Blount is known for his singing ability and rock star persona, having also performed in rock musicals Heathers, American Idiot and Altar Boyz, but his acting is second to none. Blount has been a favorite of Pollard audiences and theatre critics alike since he first came on the scene, and he’s only grown since. Blount is also a talented director, and directed The Pollard’s revival of Evil Dead: The Musical and Ghost: The Musical.

As a director and leader, Blount is similar to his predecessor. Blount is hard working, outrageously talented, and possesses no ego to be found. One of the most genuine and approachable directors in the industry, he fosters the collaborative atmosphere that was set in motion by Stevenson. Blount leads with heart and continues the legacy of making The Pollard the en- riching experience it is. Under Stevenson’s direction, the historic Pollard Theatre became a shining beacon for the community, and a special kind of home for all who entered through its doors. Now as the company goes in new directions, the theatre is in more than capable hands.

Prior to re-opening after the COVID- related shut down, The Pollard hosted a fundraising benefit in May. Welcome Home: A Night Benefitting The Pollard took place at the Magnolia Moon outdoor venue in Guthrie. The event featured food trucks and live performances from local musicians Johnny Woods and The Jason Young Band.

“The community of Guthrie really showed up and supported us during our Welcome Home Event” said Aaron Marshall, chair of The Pollard’s fundraising subcommittee. “We raised over $18,000 from that night alone, and with the proceeds were able to open Season 34.”

“More than just a benefit for the theatre, we wanted to give back to the community. The Pollard has always been about creating live theatre in a small-town atmosphere, and we have a loyal patron base of Guthrie community members. We wanted to show our audiences that we can only come back with their help, and they never let us down,” he said.

The Pollard opened Season 34, In Good Company, with the crowd-pleaser The 39 Steps. This parody on the classic crime film from the 1930s brought in sold-out audiences to the theatre. The cast of four played upwards of 100 characters, and the action never stopped on stage. One thing that did stop was the air conditioner, and the historic building proved once again that the show must go on, and that programs can double as fans.

The rest of this season’s lineup includes a new, immersive production of Dracula in October. Blount is slated to direct. Blount has an eye for the spooky and weird, and this production will be all that and more. Their new Christmas tradition continues in December with It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Previously scheduled pre-pandemic shows You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Puffs will run in the Spring of 2022.

The company is also adding on an additional lineup. The Pollard Performance Series features musicians and performers in limited engagements. Shelly Phelps and the Storm performs September 3rd and 4th, followed by Todd Oliver January 14th and 15th,

2022. Heartbreak Hotel: An Evening with the King runs February 4th-13th, 2022. Cross, Rags and Young closes out the Performance Series in June 2022.

Flex-pass tickets are on sale now, and can be purchased at thepollard.org.

Editor's Note: Adrienne Proctor is an Oklahoma City-based writer and freelance theatre critic.
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