Augusta, GA (WJBF) — It is a bit of a casting change for The Augusta Players – a group that has been around for a long time with the same person in charge. Now they are welcoming a brand new leader to town. Scott Seidl is the new executive and artistic director for the group, and he sat down with us to talk about what is in store for our performing arts community, including how you can help The Augusta Players.
Brad Means: You’re gonna see another talented performer, this time from the performing arts community itself, he is Scott Seidl, our brand new executive and artistic director of the Augusta Players. Scott, congratulations on the job and welcome to Augusta.
Scott Seidl: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here. We were looking forward to it all summer long, it’s nice to finally be here and getting our feet on the ground and getting to work.
Brad Means: Well, I know that you and your wife have been excited about it. And I know that you all have both taken a special effort to honor Debi Ballas and her two decades of service as your predecessor. Big shoes to fill, Debi did such a great job. But if you glance at the Scott Seidl resume you’ve got the big feet to fill ’em. This has been your life’s work, right?
Scott Seidl: I’ve been at it for a while. This is my 40th year working professionally in the theater industry. I’ve been really fortunate, really blessed.
Brad Means: Well, when you say in the theater industry, you mean all aspects from backstage at a performance to being a playwright yourself, right, the whole gamut.
Scott Seidl: You know, that’s the thing about the industry, if you’re gonna make a living in it, the more you can do the more often you’re employed. And so, we always try to stay employed. And I started my life in the arts as an educator at a private school. And so, you learn to do everything because you have to, you know, you’re running a school theater program. And so, you learn about lighting, and you learn about sound, in addition to directing and teaching those skills to your students. So, it was an amazing training ground. I did that for 14 years before I kind of started over out in the world, outside of the city I grew up in. And so, I’ve been pretty fortunate to have great educators myself and then become one, as well, and learn a lot about every aspect of the industry. I think it’s one of the things that makes me hopefully a really great fit for what’s happening here in Augusta.
Brad Means: Well, I’m sure that it will. And I can only ask you this question when you’re new, because your perspective is great right now, but how do we look to new folks? How does our performing arts community appear during your job interview? Is it something where there are things that are lacking that you hope to fill, or are we moving along pretty well right now?
Scott Seidl: It’s definitely the latter. I started the interview process back in November of 2016, and it went all the way into May of 2017, so it was a long process. To the Augusta Players credit, they put a lot of time and effort into taking the search very seriously and spending a lot of time vetting potential candidates. And the final interview for me was sitting with Debi Ballas at a final dress rehearsal of their production of Beauty and the Beast last spring. And I was blown away. I’ve seen that show a lot. I’ve got friends that have been on the national tour. And you hear it a lot from local audiences that that show’s as good as it is on Broadway. It really was.
Brad Means: And you notice every detail.
Scott Seidl: Completely, I was blown away by the attention to detail of every aspect of the production from wigs, and makeup, and costumes, to the scenic, the sound, every portion of that show could run on a professional stage. It was exceptional, I’m a little speechless ’cause I’m still so impressed. And that’s on top of the exceptional performances that were happening. The talent base in Augusta is really also kind of mind boggling. Just last weekend where the Auggie Awards, which is kind of the Augusta Players version of the Tonys. And cast members from all of last year’s, last season’s shows did kind of revival performances of their performances in those productions. And again, I was blown away by the amount of talent on that stage and in this city.
Brad Means: I don’t wanna ask an unfair question by getting you to preview the upcoming season, considering you’re just starting your new job, but is it too early to look at the upcoming season and what we can expect from the Augusta Players?
Scott Seidl: Oh, not at all, not at all. Oliver, the opening show, which is such a great classic is already in rehearsal. They started weeks ago, long before I came to town. Debi’s done an amazing job in getting Richard Justice, who has been involved with the players for, I don’t wanna give away his age, but for a long time. At one point, he was actually the artistic director of the organization. And he’s doing a tremendous job with that show. A Christmas Carol comes up on December 8th.
Brad Means: Oh yeah, that’s comin’ up.
Scott Seidl: Yeah, and that’s become, from what I understand, kind of an Augusta family tradition. I’m excited to be around for that. And Debi’s directing that show. And so, it’s going to be exceptional. And then I finally get to get my feet wet with Sister Act, which is, it’s a show that’s so exciting. I don’t know if anyone in town has had a chance to hear that score, but you can’t help but smile as you listen to that score, and get to live that story through the performance onstage. And then after that is this amazing family classic, The Little Mermaid, and it’s the area premier of that show. I don’t think anyone in this part of the country’s done it before, so we’re excited to be able to be putting Disney’s Little Mermaid onstage.
Brad Means: Well, when you start doing things like The Little Mermaid, and you start doing these firsts for our region, is it your expectation that you’re gonna get recognized outside of Augusta, that the Augusta Players are gonna be known far and wide?
Scott Seidl: Most definitely, actually just this morning the Augusta Players appeared on BroadwayWorld.com. The production of Oliver is getting noticed there. So, it’s happening already, and we’re really excited about that. I think that the Augusta Players has a tremendous reputation within the city already. That’s kind of how I noticed it. My wife’s from the Atlanta area, and we were talking with folks there, and they said, “You should check out Augusta.” But I think that we’re gonna hear more about the Augusta Players at a larger regional and eventually a national level.
Brad Means: What do you need from your new community from either a fund raising standpoint, or just a support standpoint otherwise, what can the community do to help you with the Augusta Players?
Scott Seidl: Well, I think there are two things. One of our goals is to open our arms a little wider, and get more people involved across all demographics, across all age groups. And at this season, I’m really excited to do that across the entire county, and even reaching over across the river into North Augusta. And some of the shows that we’re doing lend themselves to that already. I’m really excited to see the folks that come out for Sister Act. And then in addition to that, in addition to getting more folks involved, you know, it costs money to do shows. And so, fund raising and looking at kind of the business model of the organization is also something that we’re gonna be diving into. We’ve got some really exciting new things happening across the year in terms of looking at some new fund raising ideas and ways of approaching that. And I think, you know, Nick was saying earlier that the city’s on the verge of this growth, and I think the Augusta Players are poised to be part of that growth, and we’re really excited about that.
Brad Means: Where can we see your performances?
Scott Seidl: The Imperial Theater downtown is the home for all of our main stage shows, so that would include Oliver, and Christmas Carol, and Sister Act, and Little Mermaid in the spring. And then the Junior Players move around a little bit more, and so you can find their locations on the website at AugustaPlayers.org. They’re doing Once on This Island, which opens in November. They’re already in rehearsal, as well.
Brad Means: And in the few seconds that we have left, I know that not everybody watching The Means Report right now is perhaps as gifted as others when it comes to stage performances. Is there a talent threshold that you have to meet to even be considered for one of your performances, or is anybody welcome?
Scott Seidl: Well, anybody and everybody is welcome, and everyone should–
Brad Means: Anybody can audition.
Scott Seidl: Yes, everybody should audition. That just makes everything better. The more people that come into the room the better. And the audition process itself hopefully is an exciting and fun process. I have been fortunate to work all over the country, and auditions don’t have to be scary. And we’re gonna do our best to make sure that people are having a good time. But in addition to acting, there are so many other ways that you can get involved in the show.
Brad Means: That’s a great point, like you’ve done your whole life.
Scott Seidl: Yes, I’ve been pretty busy with that.
Brad Means: Well, I know that you’re gonna stay busy with the Augusta Players, and on behalf of the entire community, welcome here, we’re glad you’re leading the way.
Scott Seidl: I’m thrilled to be here.
Brad Means: Scott Seidl, the executive and artistic director of the Augusta Players. Go check out their performances, some exciting ones upcoming. And as he mentioned, got to AugustaPlayers.org to find out more. You can also call 706-826-4707. Hard to believe the curtain goes up in just a few short weeks.