What began as a group of enthusiastic teenagers, and a single adult producing on a $250 budget donated by Davis’ downtown business community, has since become a company that has engaged several thousands of young adults in theatre. Founded in 1981, Acme Theatre Company was created by Dave Burmester as the Artistic Director.
Now in its 32nd season, Acme Theatre Company continues to preserve the motto of creating “Serious theatre, for the fun of it.” The current season is comprised of three shows, including Cyrano, The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) and The Count of Monte Cristo. By definition, acme means “the point at which someone or something is best, perfect or most successful.”
“Acme’s motto reflects the company’s commitment to excellence, which is fueled by nothing other than the young people’s deep commitment,” said Artistic Director Emily Henderson. “We take the work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. We’re there to have fun, and the fun comes from challenging yourself over and over again and to do your own personal best.”
Henderson, who takes on the role of the company’s central adult mentor, tackles multiple responsibilities including selecting the plays for each season, directing a minimum of one show each season, recruiting adult mentors, as well as working with a variety of groups to make sure that the company runs smoothly.
“I take my responsibility as the company’s central adult mentor very seriously,” Henderson said. “Acme was a powerful part of my growing up experience and it is really important to me to ensure that young people have the opportunity to assume leadership roles.”
Sam Ramos, a high school student who doubles as the publicity director of Acme, recognizes that Acme’s motto is still prevalent in every aspect of the company.
“This is real, tangible, authentic and serious theatre. We strive to perform at the same level as any other community theatre group, and we have to deal with money and careful planning,” Ramos said. “Acme practically forces you to grow up. Whether you are an actor, technician, or hold a position on ACE, you have made a commitment. If you mess up, the consequences are very real.”
As stage manager since January 2011, Alina Lusebrink participated in almost every position available to the youth of Acme and will continue her role until she graduates in August.
“Some people reach Acme with excellent acting, while others reach it with their spectacular work in technical theatre,” Lusebrink said. “So many people have poured so much time and energy into producing this show. It is really something special.”
This weekend, the company presents Cyrano, a play about adventure, comedy, romance and honor.
“It’s a fun show, and it has something for everyone; adventure and sword-fights, clever wordplay and broad slapstick, romance and pathos,” Henderson said.
Nicholas Mead doubles as the company’s master carpenter and the role of Christian, the “other man” in Cyrano’s love story.
“I can’t stress how much work it is to balance tech work and acting. Having to fix staircases one moment and be acting the next is difficult, but the end feeling is definitely twice as rewarding,” Mead said.
Antonio De Loera-Brust doubles as the company’s sound designer as well as the lead role of Cyrano.
“A theatre company run by teenagers independent of outside authority sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Acme has been presenting great shows for thirty-two years,” De Loera-Brust said. “[Acme] means the world to me.”
With Acme, what usually requires salaries, organized groups of adults and a lot of time and money is pulled off by a group of dedicated teenagers and motivating adults.
“I’ll admit that I have never put so much time and energy into anything, ever,” Lusebrink said. “None of us would come back if we didn’t love it.”
“We all have jobs, but we don’t get paid with money,” Ramos said. “We get paid with happiness and the joy of using our skills to create something others will enjoy.”
Cyrano plays Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Theatre, 203 E. 14th Street. Tickets are priced at $8 for students, $10 for seniors and $12 for the general public.
ELIZABETH ORPINA can be reached at email@example.com.