OUR HISTORY A new star has risen…having begun with just the glimmer of an idea: a dream to bring a whole new level of family friendly performance art to Rockwall County. It slowly took shape and with the passion and perseverance of a local group of theatre enthusiasts, it burst forth in 2011with splendor: Rockwall Summer Musicals was born. Paradoxically, the idea for Rockwall Summer Musicals actually arose out of the ashes of the 911 tragedy. As a result of the disaster, Jacob Thomas and his wife Holly were forced to abandon their theatrical production company in New York City. Degreed and experienced in education, the couple sought comfort and stability by returning to their teaching roots. As luck would have it, along with a good shot of divine intervention, the Thomases came to Texas, where they both landed good jobs in the public school system and began to raise their family. Even though Jacob had a great job as the theatre teacher at Utley Middle School, he recognized the shortcomings of classroom learning. He knew he could do so much more to bring the experience of live theatre to his students and the enchantment of grand scale productions to audiences.
The seed of the dream was planted. Jacob had the know-how; he knew the new RHS Performing Arts Center on his campus was an excellent theatrical space and was mostly vacant during the summer. He had the tools, but he needed additional resources to bring the dream to life: a team of experts and some financial backing. But Jacob was new to town and unconnected. His only network was the Methodist church choir he sang in, which would be no big deal–unless your choir mate was a well-known director, choreographer, actor and singer, Barbara Doudt. With Jacob providing the voltage, Barbara lit the spotlight on her large network of theatrical and financial contacts. Door to door they infected a crucial circle of enthusiasts, prominent performers, producers and patrons and the project took on a life of its own. A Board of Directors was assembled, bylaws written and organizational documents filed. With plenty of ideas, but only enough money to acquire performance rights, the group put together its first season. With the goal in mind of providing professional theatrical mentors for as many students as possible, they chose to produce classic, large-cast family favorites: The Sound of Music and Oklahoma!. A group of experienced production team members came out of the woodwork to volunteer their time and expertise to produce this first season spectacle. Jacob worked out a fundraising deal with his principal whereby Rockwall Summer Musicals could use the PAC in exchange for a contribution to the Utley Wolfpack Players. Operating on a wish and a prayer, the audition committee anxiously awaited the arrival of would be performers, not knowing what kind of talent their unproven company might attract. But apparently, the buzz was out. Scores of performers from several states and all over the metroplex read, sang and danced for one of the 108 roles awarded to the winners. All we were lacking was money! It may surprise you to know what it costs to put on a production, even when none of the talent is getting paid. Royalties, insurance, costumes, sets, backdrops, music, incidentals… and managing 60-some children and adult performers in back-to-back shows can be a logistical nightmare. But we set the bar high. We knew we had to give our audiences a totally unexpected theatrical experience. It costs money and we hadn’t even started to sell tickets yet, and had no idea what kind of ticket demand our fledgling company could generate. The rest is history. In our first season, we involved over 70 students, mentoring them in acting, dancing, singing, orchestration and theatre tech. We entertained 3,000 audience members to rave reviews, comping several children’s and senior centers in the process. We donated $11,000 to Utley’s theatre program and we finished the season with enough seed money for rights to our second season, Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy. OUR MISSION (taken from our 501(c)(3) supporting narrative) Rockwall Summer Musicals (RSM) is a theatre company formed for the purpose of producing plays and conducting intergenerational theatrical workshops from May to August each year. Our unique “mentoring” instructional approach provides an educational experience that cannot be reproduced in the classroom. Pairing students with working artisans in our own community creates a learning experience that cannot be duplicated during the school year. Whereas funding for the arts seems to be ever shrinking, our efforts will help subsidize the educational needs of the Rockwall Independent School District. During the school year, RSM will prepare for the next summer season, including fundraising, reading and selecting plays, marketing, and seeking additional instructional opportunities. RSM’s activities will be funded by donations businesses and corporations, individuals, ticket sales, and paid memberships. Net revenues will be used for overhead expenses and as seed money for future productions and to supplement the education of Rockwall Independent School District students.