FLP notes from Brian’s Creative Mind

I started Footlight Players in 2004 with Zac Campbell, an “older than traditional age” student returning to college after his service as a Marine in Desert Storm.  Zac challenged me to provide, what many of us who make our way in life as theatre artists had growing up, a youth theater program welcoming of all types and ranges of ability. I said something like, “Zac I’m not aware of anyone on faculty who’s interested in running a theater camp, but if you’d like to take charge of it, I’ll find a way to get you the resources.” We began with 14 kids ages 7-11, a single play to produce, and workshops created in our imaginations. The second year, we added older players, a few more staff, and a larger production. And then Zac did what I should have seen coming…he graduated.

I continued Footlight Players because Zac was right.  We ignited a wonderful potential in Indiana County for exploring creative abilities through theater and musical theater. We continued to grow each year, reaching 40 then 60 players fairly rapidly.  Players have come from every school district in Indiana County. Many players returned year after year, frequently bringing a friend to experience the art, creativity and comradery. As Player numbers grew, we added more professional staff and interns and then started to recruit professionals from beyond IUP. Supported by grants from the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts, and occasionally the United Way, we developed the capacity to offer a half-dozen classes and four productions, two plays and two musicals. We also returned to a founding premise that we should be helping young people to develop and perform stories rooted in their own community. With this intention in mind, we provide a “devised” play each year, inventing and creating a production based on a scenario provided by the director, and dependent on the creative contributions of the cast.

Looking forward, I envision Footlight Players becoming more firmly rooted in the pedagogy and curriculum of the Department of Theater and Dance at IUP. FLP originated as a wild sprout of an idea for a service contribution to the local community surrounding IUP. It blossomed. Now that the Department of Theater and Dance has committed to a future that includes Applied Theater, the program can go to the next level and realize its potential as a training ground for aspiring teaching artists serving the mission of community engagement. That’s high-falutin’ talk for a vision that is still pretty simple. Good people, giving generously of their creative spirit and abilities, to bring along and help develop the next generation of creative young people.

Brian Jones

Executive and Producing Director


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