Jessie Resimius is one of the founders of Act Two Theatre in St. Peters, MO and is the current president of the board of directors. I had a chance to sit down with her and talk about her duties as president and discuss what her thoughts were about future funding challenges.
What is your background in theatre?
I became involved in theatre because my son participated in a young people’s theatre. Of course, when you have young people’s theatre, the parents are expected to build the sets and be there for all manner of backstage duties. This group of parents enjoyed being together so much while our kids were in the theatre, we decided, let’s put together a performance ourselves. That’s how Act Two Theatre got started. In the beginning, in 1993, it was branded Act II Community Theatre.
How long have you been President of Act Two Theatre Board of Directors?
I’ve been president for four years. I’ve been a part of the board in different capacities at different times since its formation.
How many different places has Act Two Theatre called home?
We have been in three different locations. The first location was the City Hall Building on Venture Drive. Around 2001, the city of St. Peters bought a building off Mid Rivers Mall Drive and made that its Cultural Arts Center. When the aldermanic chambers moved to the new justice center by the mall, their old chambers became a viable place for us to perform and we moved over there in 2011.
What are your main duties as President of the Board of Directors for Act Two Theatre?
Everything. I mean, a little bit of everything. We’re the workhorses of the organization. We choose the shows, we choose the directors, we manage the finances, we are in charge of the marketing, we communicate with the city, and we execute the contracts with the city. Anything that you can think of that has to be accomplished is what we do.
Why did you decide to get involved with being on the board? What made you want to do more than just being on stage or just being back stage?
I think the biggest thing for me was that I could see if we did not have a board to run the organization, it was going to dissolve. I felt like we had worked really, really hard to get Act Two Theatre to be where it is today. I feel like we’ve grown in the talent that we have on stage. We’ve definitely grown our audience numbers. We’ve grown in the professionalism of everyone involved, from stage managers to directors, from lighting and sound to tech crews, and in our physical space from where it started in 1993. There was a point where if we didn’t have volunteers to be on the board and take charge of that direction, the organization would dissolve. It does take an incredible amount of time to do everything that needs to be done.
How big is the board?
There are four members. We have grown the board at times to 8 or 9 people. It’s very difficult because a lot of actors want to be on the board. I think sometimes that can be self-serving because they want to choose the shows that they want to do or they want to be in, not necessarily what’s good for our company. We have to generate revenue because the rent we pay is very high. In that respect, we have to be very careful that we are choosing shows that will generate that revenue for us. So we’ve gone through some transitions.
Do the board members have a set term?
No. We do have elections on an annual basis. But, basically the people who are willing to do the work are still there.
What is the biggest challenge and what is the biggest reward in running a community theatre?
A big challenge is finding the right people to be in the right positions. Finding the people who are capable and willing to do the job on a volunteer basis. It’s a challenge sometimes to work with the city within their parameters. It’s a challenge just getting the word out other than in the theatre community that we exist. We’ve had challenges growing our audience, but I think we’ve met those very well.
The biggest reward is to see so many people from the St. Peters community participate in our art form. To have a place to come and do what they love to do. And to see the audience reaction to that art.
Act Two Theatre is not run by the city of St. Peters, but yet they rent space from the city. What are some of the challenges that you face in not being controlled by the government, but yet still having to appease them?
We do have to make sure that we are doing shows that are appropriate for our audience and that will generate the revenue and support from the Board of the City of St. Peters. The Mayor of St. Peters is a terrific supporter of Act Two Theatre as are some of the aldermen that are on the board. We just have to make sure that we are able to continue our positive relationship to make Act Two Theatre viable in the future. As a rental party at the theatre, the city doesn’t decide what shows we do and do not do. However, we are aware of what our audiences like. And we try to select shows they would like to attend.
What is your view on the outlook of funding for community theatre in the future. With the new administration there have been talks about cutting budget for the arts. What are your opinions on that?
I can say we have seen that first hand. We applied last year for our very first Missouri Arts Council (MAC) Grant and were awarded a certain amount of money. When our new governor came in to position, he cut the funding for the MAC grants. Our original amount was cut by a little more than 13%. I think art organizations as a whole are going to see that it’s more difficult to get the funding to help us survive. Act Two Theatre has really, really watched our budget. Hopefully we can survive the budget crunches and cuts. But it will not be easy.
How much of Act Two Theatre’s budget is reliant upon grants and how much is reliant upon ticket sales?
The largest amount of money comes from business sponsors, ticket sales, and donors.
What is your dream role? Aside from just being on the board, you have done some acting yourself. Or, in the perfect world, what would be a show that you would like to see your company be able to tackle?
I think Little Shop of Horrors, coming up, is a huge show for us as far as something to tackle. Just the puppetry itself will be a real challenge for us. But we have a great director with a great vision, so I know the show will be fantastic. As far as dream role, I feel like I’ve already played it. I played Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. My other favorite role had to be Truvy in Steel Magnolias. Those are the two roles that I always dreamed about doing and I got to do them. I need to set a new goal, don’t I? I need to find a new dream role.
For more information about Act Two Theatre, please visit their website at www.acttwotheatre.com.