Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette All For One Production board members, from left, Stacey Kuster, chief administrator, Lauren Nichols, artistic director, and Greg Livengood, vice president, meet for an interim leadership team meeting.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette A poster of All for One Productions’ 2000 show “A Sentimental Journey” at Grand Wayne Center.
Courtesy Jadon Moore stars as Martin Luther in All for One’s production of “A Mighty Fortress.”
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 1:00 am
25 years and counting
Theater company All for One begins new season Friday
COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette
If you go
What: “A Mighty Fortress”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sept. 22 and 23; 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 24
Where: ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St.
Admission: $20 adults, $17 seniors ages 60 and older, $11 students; early bird discounts available through Thursday; 422-4226 or tickets.artstix.org
A local theater company that began as a nine-month experiment celebrates its 25th anniversary this year as All for One Productions opens its season with “A Mighty Fortress.”
Artistic director Lauren Nichols remembers sitting around her kitchen table with four others, including her husband, Dennis Nichols, and Sharon Henderson, who retired as the group's executive director last year.
“I don't think we quite knew what we were getting into,” Nichols says. “We all had a theater background and loved the idea of a faith-driven company that would work outside the walls of a church, but we weren't sure what that meant.”
With a trial period in place, the company immediately began getting calls from people that already knew members of the group from the theater world. They would ask if All for One had a piece for events such as Good Friday, Christmas and women's retreats.
“Our answer for about two years was, 'No, but we'll write something!'” Nichols says.
All for One continued as a traveling repertoire company doing original works in the tri-state area. In 2000, the group created its own event at Grand Wayne Center and performed an original piece about World War II. Sold-out performances of the show and positive audience feedback encouraged the group to explore a more traditional community theater format, including using published works in addition to original pieces.
All for One had no steady venue until 2007, when it made the auditorium at the Allen County Public Library its home stage. In 2015, it began staging its shows in the ArtsLab black box theater in the Auer Center for Arts and Culture on the downtown arts campus.
The theater company's seasons consist of four shows and Nichols says 75 percent of All for One's productions are an area or world premiere.
“We've worked with a number of local playwrights to nurture and develop original pieces,” she says. All for One looks for works that fit its “values-rich” focus.
Some writers are drawn to the faith-based focus of the theater company, and others simply know that All for One will do quality work with their productions, Nichols says.
Nichols herself wrote “A Mighty Fortress,” which opens the company's season this weekend. “Fortress,” which was her first play, premiered in 1991 and was written for her husband. The one-man show focuses on Martin Luther's efforts to reform the church, and this year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Luther will be played this time around by Jadon Moore.
Not all of All for One's productions are faith-driven stories, but the company includes one “sacred piece” each season. Other productions this season include an adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” in November, the world premiere of locally written one-man musical “David: The Giant-Killing, Song-Writing Chosen King” in February and “The Secret Garden” in April.
The latter show will appeal to families, Nichols says, and All for One considers it part of its mission to get youth interested and involved in theater. The company offers an apprenticeship program that teaches teens and young adults about directing, stage management and other technical elements of the theater. It also encourages the development of writing skills in area youth.
This season marks the 10th anniversary of All for One's Young Playwrights Festival. Workshops for youth writers take place in the fall and eight winning plays will be performed in May.
“Some of the most educational experiences I ever had were in the theater,” Nichols says.
Pieces created for the festival do not have to be faith-driven. Nichols says the arts have to nurture the next generation, and All for One wants youth to have a voice.
“I'm thrilled to be able to provide a place for young playwrights to have an opportunity to get their feet wet, as it were,” she says.
Nichols is just as thrilled when adult playwrights bring their work to All for One because she knows playwriting can be a lonely business.
“I was just blessed from the beginning with being a part of a company that was always going to be willing to try out my work,” she says. Over the past quarter century, All for One has fully staged five of her works and produced at least one more.
As All for One marks its 25th anniversary, the company is looking to grow its presence in the community. It had its first school matinee last season and has collaborated with a dance company and music group for performances. Nichols says she is always looking for more opportunities for collaborations with arts organizations and schools.
She says the future of All for One probably looks a lot like the present. But for the next few weeks, at least, the company will be spending some time looking at the past and celebrating how far it has come from that kitchen table 25 years ago.