A new company -- and perhaps a new philosophy -- tosses its hat into the ring when the Threshold Repertory Theatre presents its inaugural performance Thursday at Memminger Auditorium.
The brainchild of artistic director Mark Mixson and actress/Executive Director Pamela Galle, Threshold aims to offer high-end theater at low-end prices. To that end, tickets for the opening night of its production of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!)" are $5.
"For those who feel they cannot afford a ticket, we will be on a pay-what-you-will basis, and some tickets will be offered free," says Mixson, a Summerville attorney who met Galle while performing with her in a Footlight Players production of "The Miracle Worker."
Both have managed theater companies previously -- Mixson in Manhattan while "moonlighting" as a senior counsel for the city of New York and Galle in Charlotte. The latter also has produced plays, among them a 2010 rendition of '"Discretion" under the Pure Theatre umbrella for Piccolo Spoleto.
Billed as "a madcap romp" through the holiday season, the play takes an amiably catch-all approach to "every 'Beloved Holiday Classic' from Charles Dickens to Dr. Seuss, together with Christmas traditions from around the world. This, without focusing all the cast's energies on a single, oft-told tale.
Directed by Mixson, with performances by Peter Galle, David Moon and Larry Perewiznyk, "Every Christmas Story Ever Told" is a meld of parody and homage, spiking the eggnog with tongue-in-cheek wit but still respectful of every secular seasonal classic since Dickens dreamed up Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim.
The original play was written by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez with original music by Will Knapp.
When Mixson broached the idea of putting together a theater company in a small market already crowded with them, Galle was dubious at first.
"It's true that it is a difficult time to be starting a new theater company," she says, "but it is also an exciting time. Out of difficulty comes opportunity."
A College of Charleston graduate, Mixson was seduced by the stage while in school. After working in New York as an actor and company manager in New York, he returned to Charleston in 2002, later performing in such local productions as "Amadeus" with the Footlight Players and "Speed the Plow" at the Village Playhouse.
"David Moon and I had these aspirations years ago," he says. "More recently, all of us talked about whether or not opening another company was viable at this time, and I have to say it is an experiment. We are doing it at Memminger, which is a grand if rather expensive venue for us. Ultimately, a theater company requires support from the community. To the extent we can make a go of it, we are going to try.
"Part of our mission is to develop a new audience, and it's really daunting when you must compete with all the other attractions out there. The existing one for theater is older and sophisticated, more affluent. But sometimes if you don't attract the younger, less well-to-do patron, you are not developing new theatergoers while watching your older audience diminish with time. We hope that if some pay more, we can offer tickets for free to those who can't afford it."
When the competition is tough, you have to offer something special, Mixson says.
"And that something special is the live interaction between actors and audience."
The long-range goal is to become an equity theater, says Galle.
As for material, Mixson says he is particularly attracted to the notion of lending fresh perk to world classics as well as musicals, but he notes that others in the company are interested in the educational aspects of theater. As the company evolves, Mixson and Galle hope to involve acting and playwriting students at minimal or no cost to those learning the ropes.
"The idea is that nobody should be turned away because they can't afford it."
Reach Bill Thompson at 937-5707.
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