Trying to define an entire organization is tough for most people. But most people aren’t Gregory Stavrou, executive director of the Rochester Civic Theatre. When asked to describe the theater, he is quick to answer: generosity of spirit. “We try to always demonstrate generosity of spirit. Probably the most meaningful thing to me…is when people say to me, thank you for making us feel so welcome.”
This sense of welcoming and openness is one offered by the theater seemingly without effort. It hosts a wide variety of art, not just live community and professional theater. From music to educational programming, the theater is in a constant conversation about the role of the arts in the community.
Stavrou is incredibly proud of all the theater has accomplished. 2016 marks the 64th season for the organization and promises to continue along its innovative path.
“Over the last eight years, we’ve worked very hard…listening to our community and intentionally recommitting ourselves to excellence and active involvement in the community,” Stavrou shared. With a yearly audience bordering 50,000 attendees, the Rochester Civic Theatre plays an active role in the art scene not only in Rochester, but in all of southeast Minnesota.
The theater has a full-time artistic staff, Stavrou explains, all of whom are “theater professionals who are deeply committed to fulfilling the responsibilities of a civic arts organization.” The theater has their own costume shop and builds their own sets.
Clearly committed to arts of all kinds, the Rochester Civic Theatre offers a wide range of programs. From musical performances like the Americana Showcase series and the free Civic on the Patio shows every Friday during the summer, to youth and adult education, the theater maintains an active engagement in the public eye.
Beyond artistic performances, the theater upholds a deep reverence for asking questions of itself and the community at large. “What is our role? What is the role of the arts, and arts organizations and artists, in participating in the larger civic life of the community. I’m fond of saying we celebrate our interdependence with the rest of the community,” said Stavrou.
This is apparent through the educational offerings of the organization. For example, in March 2016, the theater will produce “Wit,” a professional show highlighting issues of relationships, cancer and end-of-life decisions. To create a deeper context for the show, the theater used two of its Women on Wednesday dialog sessions to discuss the integration of arts into critical and end of life care, and illness and intimacy. This was all one in part to create a context for dialog of the show.
“One of the wonderful roles a theater can play is it entertains, it brings joy to our lives, it can make us happy. But another important role is that it is a place for the community to come together to wrestle with hard questions. It’s a place of ideas, it’s outside of the politics of business. It’s a place for the sharing of ideas where we’re all equal,” said Stavrou.
The Rochester Civic Theatre takes its role of engaging with civil dialog seriously and strives to create value for those in the entire community of greater southeast Minnesota.