New director on board at TBT

A professional actor who spent two fall seasons on stage at Thunder Bay Theatre arrived back in Alpena this week as the theatre’s newest artistic director. Kevin Reams, a native of New Albany, Ohio, began work last Monday.

“Ever since I first came here, I thought this would be a great place to take a first step in directing,” said Reams, a 2005 and 2006 TBT core company alumnus. “I’ve directed some stuff before, but this is full-time.”

Reams likes the fact he already knows a number of people here, they know his work and he knows how the theatre operates. During his previous stints at TBT, he appeared in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Cabaret,” “Noises Off,” “Once Upon a Wolf” and “Robin Hood.”

Reams said he realizes his new position requires him to work with a limited budget with expectations for quality productions. “I am a little nervous. There is so much more to think about,” he said, “and I am going to have a lot to learn.”

After getting settled into his apartment located on the top floor of the theatre building on Second Avenue, he spent a couple of evenings conducting auditions for the three fall season shows. He also has been busy lining up additional core company members who will join Nickie Hilton and Amy Groen, both already on staff. Joining them for all or parts of the fall season are professional actors Jeff Mindock, Rocky Cooper, Nicholas Wilder and Chelsea Jenkins.

With one exception, Reams is taking on the schedule of shows already pre-set by former TBT Artistic Director J.R. Rodriguez. The season opens Sept. 26 with the musical comedy/drama, “Grey Gardens.” Based on the 1975 documentary of the same title, the show is about the lives Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale (Little Edie), who in real life were the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, respectively.

Set at Grey Gardens, the Bouviers’ mansion in East Hampton, the musical tracks the progression of the two women’s lives from their original status as rich and socially polished aristocrats to their eventual largely isolated existence in a home overrun by cats and cited for repeated health code violations. More central to the show’s purpose is to untangle the complicated dynamics of their dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship.

“I think it can be a really cute musical,” said Reams, adding that he hopes theatre patrons will have an opportunity to see the original 1971 documentary prior to attending TBT’s show. It is available from Netflex, he said. “Grey Gardens” runs Sept. 26-Oct. 6.

The originally selected “To Kill a Mockingbird” has since been replaced by Reams with the comedy, “Boeing, Boeing.” Show dates are Oct. 17-Nov. 3.

“This new show was my choice,” he said, admitting to a fondness for comedy farces. “Though we were scheduled to do ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ casting-wise it just wouldn’t have worked.”

Written in the 1960s, “Boeing Boeing” revolves around swinging bachelor Bernard, who couldn’t be happier. He’s got a flat in Paris and three gorgeous stewardesses, all engaged to him without knowing about each other. But Bernard’s perfect life gets bumpy when his friend Robert comes to stay and a new, speedier Boeing jet throws off all of his careful planning. Soon all three stewardesses are in town simultaneously, with timid Robert forgetting which lies to tell to whom as catastrophe looms.

TBT will close out the season with the classic musical, “Beauty and the Beast” (Nov. 21-Dec. 15). In the meantime, Reams has begun the process of selecting shows for 2014.

A 1997 graduate of the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre, Reams brings a wealth of varied experience and travel adventures to his new position in Alpena. Right out of college, he did traveling elementary school theatre productions and summer outdoor dramas. Those opportunities took him to more than 25 states.

Because of his love for travel, he also spent a couple of years as an assistant cruise director for Holland America, which took him to many locales in the Caribbean and as far north as Alaska.

Succeeding jobs included playing the part of a singing Italian gondolier in Machu, China; an after school drama instructor in South Korea; and English teacher and acting mentor in the Philippines, where his duties enabled him to participate in 43 short student films.

Altogether Reams spent six years working and living in Asia, though in between, he also fit in time to do summer stock theatre work in West Virginia and North Carolina. Most recently, he taught English for six months in Vietnam.

Reams said he is looking forward to the opportunity serve as artistic director at TBT. He encourages anyone who wants to help at the theatre to contact him, but in particular is looking for local male actors. He may be reached at 354-2267.