A newly formed theater company in Rochester plans to launch with a big musical production next summer and eventually hire Greg Miller as artistic director.
The new group, Calliope Theatre, has been formed by local stage artists who want to recapture what they say is missing from the current theater scene.
"We really want to regain the theater company in town that gives people in our community a voting voice," said Audrey Rinkoski, president of the Calliope board.
That sounds like a reaction to the controversy two years ago at Rochester Civic Theatre, where volunteers had their voting rights removed, and where Miller, a popular longtime artistic director, was fired.
Rinkoski was a popular performer in musicals at the Civic. Also on the Calliope board are former Civic employee Denise Reumping, Melissa Adams-Goihl, Dylan Starr and Nicholas Rudlong. All have made numerous appearances on local stages, in particular at the Civic Theatre, and especially in musical productions.
The founding of Calliope would indicate there is little chance the Civic will get these and other artists who have been boycotting the theater, back on its stage in the near future.
"We tired our best in that arena and there was only so much we could do," Rinkoski said.
Instead, work is proceeding on Calliope, which will be launched with an announcement event Sept. 22.
Initially, Rinkoski said, Calliope will focus on summer musicals.
"We've been noticing that there are a lot of summer plays you can go to," she said, "but if you want to see a musical, you have to leave town."
Musicals are huge undertakings for a theater company, in terms of talent, energy and cost.
"They're also very popular," Rinkoski said. "That's the way to get your audience. The potential is there to make more money for an arts organization."
And, she added, "Musicals are what so many of us are interested in doing."
She said Miller, who is not currently attached to a theater, has served as a consultant to Calliope during the organizational process. "He's been an invaluable resource," she said. "The ultimate goal is to get to a point where we can hire him as artistic director."
First, Calliope will have to find a venue in which to perform — a notoriously difficult search in Rochester.
"We have a couple of local places we've been talking with," Rinkoski said.
Memberships in Calliope are available at $250, or can be based on volunteer hours and in-kind donations. Members will have voting rights. "That's pretty much at the center, because of our emphasis on community and inclusivity," Rinkoski said. "They should have a say."
Calliope is one of a handful of theater groups that have formed locally in recent years, but is perhaps the one with biggest ambitions.
"The more the merrier," said Kevin Miller, executive director at Rochester Civic Theatre. "I think it's exciting, with all the different groups. It shows how vibrant it is."
"We've all got our niche," Rinkoski said.