(This is the first in a series of profiles of nonprofessional and small professional theatres in our coverage area.)
Since 1996, 2nd Star Productions has been bringing nonprofessional productions to the Bowie area. The company was founded by five local theatre veterans in order to, in the words of current president Nathan Bowen, “make their own rules for the sandbox.”
“In addition to producing high-quality shows, they wanted to create an atmosphere where people can grow, have fun, and feel that their contributions were highly valued,” Bowen said. For the past few seasons, 2nd Star Productions has presented three shows each season at Bowie Playhouse, a 150-seat venue that often sells out.
“Our goal is to not only produce quality, educational theatre, but to do it all while also building a true community of volunteers and attendees,” Bowen said. Volunteers and audience members are surveyed about what shows they would like to see the company produce, which also helps attract new performers. While 2nd Star Productions has some “regulars” on its stage, there is no core company, and Bowen said newcomers appear often.
Two 2016 2nd Star Productions shows were honored with Ruby Griffith Awards. “Guys and Dolls” won the award for All-Around Production Excellence, and “HMS Pinafore” won for Best Musical. The company’s shows regularly receive WATCH Award nominations, winning three for “Mary Poppins” and one for “Annie Get Your Gun” in 2017.
According to Bowen, running a nonprofessional theatre in between Washington and Baltimore has both advantages and disadvantages. “The area is certainly saturated with ample opportunities for people to attend theatre, in particular given that we are close to two vibrant cities,” he said. “Despite that fact, we have been happily able to manage respectable audience attendance.”
Audience members new to the region have expressed pleasant surprise about the “vibrant community theatre scene” in the area, Bowen said, and the many community theatres within the geographically small area share props, costumes, set pieces, and expertise. “We are lucky that we are in an area with so much acting talent, so casting our shows is usually an easy process,” Bowen said, though finding volunteers to handle less glamourous administrative tasks can be a challenge.
The support of the City of Bowie is essential to 2nd Star Productions’ success. “We are very fortunate when it comes to lights and sound at the Playhouse,” Bowen said. “The City provides staff who manage both aspects, related equipment is largely provided by the City, and the Playhouse is constructed such that we rarely need to mic our actors.” The venue permits 2nd Star Productions to create sets that “far exceed what one might expect from ‘amateur’ theatre,” according to Bowen.
The current season at 2nd Star Productions included the musicals “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Chess,” and will close out with “Gypsy,” opening May 31. The upcoming season will be announced in early March.
To learn more about 2nd Star Productions, visit the company’s website at 2ndstarproductions.com.