Tell me a bit about Theatre eXceptional. Where is it based, what is your mission?
Theatre eXceptional is a professional theatre company that strives to create work for, about and including artists with disabilities. Our aim is to use the power of the performing arts to address and eliminate the misconceptions and social stigmas so often placed upon these communities that inhibit their fullacceptance into our society. We work to create a space for these artists to express themselves through the performing arts, an opportunity for them to train and perfect their craft, and a venue for them to share their talents with the public. We accomplish this by producing a mainstage season of 2-3 shows a year as well as organizing year round theatre classes taught by a staff of area theatre professionals at 4 locations throughout Tampa Bay. We have over 75 students enrolled in our program taking classes on introductory theatre, musical theatre, improvisation, devised performance, and even Shakespeare. Tuition for our training program is extremely reasonable and we work hard to provide both need- and merit-based scholarships to artists so that our program is accessible and inclusive of all who wish to participate.
What first got you started creating Theatre eXceptional?
I started Theatre eXceptional with my brother Tyler Crose, who has Down Syndrome, in 2015. I moved back to the Tampa area in 2013 and one night, while hanging out with Tyler, he asked me what I was working on. I told him about where I was auditioning and what projects I was working on. He said “Man I really miss performing.” That really struck me. We did tons of plays and musicals together when we were growing up at school or church or community theatres. Tyler has just as much talent, passion and drive for the performing arts as I do, but no outlet for his art; he can’t just walk into an audition and be seen or even taken seriously. So one or two beers later, we decided to start a theatre company. Our vision was to put local theatre artists in collaboration with performers with disabilities to produce high quality professional productions that empower and represent the disability community. And 5 years later we are still doing it!
What is your favorite piece you’ve ever directed? Why?
This is so tough! I am so proud of all our Theatre X productions but I think the one that is most memorable for me is our first musical – The Wizard of Oz. It was such an experiment! We really had no idea how it was going to work, so we just dove in head first. Even though we were working with a script, it had the feel of a devised project in that it was this brand new production team and ensemble who came together and just figured things out step by step. We were working with source material, but we turned the story on its headand made it our own. We learned so much making that show, and we really developed our company’s artistic process.
When/If you ever have time outside of work, where can we find you? (when it’s not quarantine, of course!)
After weeknight classes and performances, you can usually find me and a good amount of the Theatre X team at Fat Cats Tavern in Largo. In our Zoom meetings, someone inevitably mentions how much we are all craving Fat Cat wings and green tea shots.
What do ya’ll have coming up?
Like a lot of educational programs, we have moved many of our classes to virtual platforms. In addition we are hosting online events open to the public to keep our students engaged, connected, and practicing. For more information on our digital events, like and our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/TheatreeXceptional/
Wednesday May 27 at 7:00pm – Character Building Workshop with BriannaBuild and develop a unique character from scratch in just 90 mins! Working from the outside in, actors will explore how to create a character, develop their complexities, and bring them to life for an audience
Wednesday June 3 at 7:00pm – Karaoke Night with KatieShow off your skills by singing your fav tune! To sign up to perform email your name and song choice to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday June 10 at 7:00pm – Dance ClassPut on your dancing shoes, because our next Zoom Hangout is a virtual dance party! Katie D and Alicia are going to teach us how to do some of your favorite dances from some of our past Theatre X shows and maybe even some new ones!
We are also thrilled to be collaborating with American Stage Education on producing their Monthly Community Virtual Talent shows. You can see different Theatre X actors perform at each one! Dates are June 5, July 3, and August 7.