Since 2003, Bree Luck has risen through the ranks at Live Arts—first as a volunteer, performing and directing, and then serving as education director. Most recently, Luck was the theater’s interim managing artistic director. This month, the Henry, Virginia, native—also a former Georgian, New Yorker and Californian—takes the helm as the theater’s producing artistic director, and will lead Live Arts’ artistic, operational, financial and administrative efforts.
Among a teeming list of directives, one of Luck’s priorities is increasing diversity within the company.
“One thing we need to do at Live Arts is make sure we’re not just telling stories about a couple of white people sitting around the dinner table,” she says. “And when we do choose to tell those stories, we need to be aware of the limitations that come with that choice—and even to explore alternate casting choices that might give a new spin to the story, when it feels relevant or compelling to do so.”
Luck says she is inspired locally by Madeline Michel’s work recruiting and retaining minority artists at Monticello High School, and engaging them by selecting stories “that aren’t just white and male-centric,” such as Hairspray, In The Heights and Memphis.
“I mean, that’s why we want to go to the theater, right?” Luck says. “Because we want to see stories that make us feel less alone in the world.”
She also mentions color-blind casting, as in Hamilton, in which a director presumes that race and gender are not essential to the character.
“We have an upcoming show, Pippin, which has a multi-ethnic cast, but the casting choices were not based on ethnicity and don’t change the tenor of the musical,” Luck says. Conversely, in Live Arts’ current production of Death of a Salesman, director William Rough took the color-conscious casting approach and gave African-American men roles that have typically been played by white actors.
Luck says a favorite undertaking outside of Live Arts has been her work as the director of The Voice Project, in which she helped inmates at a local women’s prison tell their stories, find healthy ways to deal with conflict, and connect with each other and the world around them.
“Theater—it’s about real connection. The making of it and the watching of it,” she says. “I love film, too, but there’s a remove there. It’s not immediate. It’s not visceral and live. …It’s cleaned up, and edited and polished. When you’re doing theater, it’s real human beings telling stories right here in the moment with all of the beauty and flaws that come with humanity.”
She worked to teach the 200 inmates that at the heart of story is conflict, and to help them see that “sometimes the things that we think are most despicable or frustrating about ourselves are also the places we can find beauty.”
The inmates’ pre and post evaluation forms showed that their instances of violent infractions within the prison were reduced, and on a scale of 1-5, they gave the course a 4.75 for being an enormous motivator to remain infraction free.
Live Arts currently has 750 active volunteers, and Luck says she is honored every time she walks the Downtown Mall and thinks about the roost she rules and beyond.
“For a town of this size—to be able to be here and to know that this is a community that values the arts—is just pure joy.”
A Delicate Balance
October 13–November 11
Sometimes order, no matter how stultifying, is the only defense against chaos, and so we cling to it. How do we go on in the face of nameless, but real, terror? And when the terror recedes, can we regain our equilibrium, can things return to normal after we’ve shown our frailty to our world?
Directed by Fran Smith
December 1–January 6
Charity may be down, but she is never out. Persistently optimistic, unfailingly upbeat, this indomitable dancehall dreamer carves out a place in her world where she is seen and heard and valued on her own terms.
Directed by Marija Reiff
This groundbreaking theatrical exploration of the challenges women face in defining their own lives is perhaps more relevant today than ever.
Directed by Betsy Rudelich Tucker
This story traces the coming-of-age of Alison, from her childhood through her college years and finally to the present day, where, now grown, Alison struggles to make sense of her father’s recent death.
Directed by Miller Murray Susen
Hand to God
April 13–May 5
The Exorcist meets Avenue Q in this irreverent and hysterical journey to the basement of a church in Cypress, Texas, where Jason, a painfully shy, mild-mannered kid, joins his mother Margery’s Christian puppet ministry. Jason’s alter ego, Tyrone, is a foul-mouthed, independent and diabolically funny puppet who has other plans for his human.
Directed by Cristan Keighley
May 18–June 3
Buckle up for an evening
of razor-sharp modern wordplay and classic Restoration stage combat with our hero, a rapscallion who raises lying to an art form. Blessed and cursed with an unfailing gift for fabrication, young Dorante comes to Paris looking for a good time and promptly falls in love. D
Directed by Mike Long