Imagine a directory of Louisville-trained actors — people who’ve gone on to study at Julliard, Carnegie Mellon, Brown University, and Princeton University — that current theater students could use to assist them as they prepare for their own acting careers.
According to Benjamin Wells Park, an instructor at Walden Theatre, such a database is already in the works. Park said the group is working to catalog nearly 40 years worth of the conservatory program’s alumni.
Walden Theatre merged last year with Blue Apple Players Outreach and they now operate together as Commonwealth Theatre Center, a theater education program. Commonwealth has a budget just over $1 million and a staff of 19 full- and part-time workers.
Park says the purpose of the database is multifaceted. There are some obvious fundraising opportunities, but past that, he says it’s all about facilitating connections for Louisville actors who’ve graduated from their programs and potentially moved on to other cities.
“If you have someone who is doing particularly well in Chicago, New York or L.A., and you are a recent college grad going to Chicago, New York or L.A., having that type of support system would be nice,” Park says.
He says the long-term goal of the database is to bring former Louisville actors back to the city.
“Whether it’s for an entire year — like somebody this year is about to do — or if it is just for a couple months,” he says.
Park says while working in Chicago, he was friends with some Louisville actors also living in the city. He says although they were some of the most talented actors he’s ever worked with, even they could have “off months.”
“They have a couple months where they don’t get a gig,” he says. “Why couldn’t they come back to Louisville where there is a support system? They could teach in our classes, they could do a show that they probably would not end up getting cast in Chicago, and spend a couple months home.”
Park says that this arrangement would not only be good for the actors, but for Walden as a professional training institution. He says they hope to launch the database by the end of the summer.
“We want to show also that the alumni can come back to Louisville,” Park says. “It is truly a lifelong learning process.”