Tapscott Looks Back On District Theater, Forward To New Artistic Ventures
Tristan Tapscott has always welcomed new creative ventures into his life, and with last week’s closing of District Theater after nine seasons, the former artistic director of that venue is sentimental about the past and proud of his accomplishments at that bastion while looking forward to the future.
Recently, Tapscott sat down to talk about the District Theater, his performing and producing career, upcoming paths and more.
Q: What was it like when you closed the theater?
A: It was a very surreal moment for me. I spent the last nine years sacrificing everything for that place. I can’t yet describe it… It was a mix of relief and grief… I keep using the scene in Armageddon where they are about to launch and Owen Wilson says, “I got that “excited/scared” feeling. Like 98 percent excited, 2 percent scared. Or maybe it’s more – It could be two – it could be 98 percent scared, 2 percent excited but that’s what makes it so intense, it’s so – confused. I can’t really figure it out.”
Q: What were the reasons for the theater closing? How do you feel about its closing?
A: It became clear that, while the opportunity was a good one that our board felt strongly that we simply had to take, the increased overhead was substantially higher than our most conservative projections. The diverse and adventurous programming we became known for and a decline in audience attendance caused us to fail to meet the financial obligations of this business. Rather than continuing to burden our limited but devoted volunteer corps, the decision was made to step away from the terribly difficult business. The truth is, those of us involved in the organization were working tirelessly and we could no longer carry the burden and the realities of this beautifully insane business
Q: What are your fondest memories of the District Theater?
A: The joy that theatre brings to those both on stage and off. What a thrill to witness that kind of magic. We created magic there and what a beautiful thing.
Q: How do you feel you had an impact and an influence on the local theater landscape?
A: I proved anything is possible and that this area is theatre crazy! It’s awesome to be part of this community where so many opportunities are available. We all impact this area in our own way and our biggest contribution is that we broke down the fourth wall and made the audience part of the experience.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: I am fondest of my collaborations with Danny White. I loved working on “A Christmas Carol” and the Big Rock series with him and the rest of the merry band of misfits.
Q: What will be the fate of the shows that were scheduled to be performed at the theater in the upcoming months?
A: Unfortunately, the chapter is being closed permanently on the District Theatre. Luckily other organizations in the area will be picking up a few of the shows and I’m excited to see the success others will have with them this year! I will definitely be there to show my support.
Q: You began producing shows back in 2003 with My Verona Productions, with yours truly, actually, then when I went on sabbatical, we shut down MVP and you moved on to produce shows at Harrison Hilltop Theater in 2008 and then to District Theater two years later, making it well over a decade in which you’ve produced hundreds of shows. How does it feel to step back from producing and running a theater company? And also, how does it feel to get back to solely being a performer?
A: I will someday return to the producers chair but I need a break to focus on some others things. Honestly, I’m thrilled to be able to focus on my family and other projects that I wasn’t able to ever get to. I am eager to tread the boards as a performer and a performer only. All of my artistic energy can be put towards my stage and film work and I will be able to immerse myself in new and healthy ways.
Q: I’ve known you for a while, we’ve been friends for a while. Let’s face it, in all likelihood you probably will end up producing shows again. And, honestly, if I were a betting man, odds are it might be producing a show or two with me. But do you think you’ll ever open another theater?
A: Absolutely not. Producing? Maybe. Yes. Probably. Owning something like that and running it? Absolutely not. Let someone else deal with that and I will happily be involved in any way I can!
Q: Rumor has it that a persistent complaint of theater goers in the area has been “Not enough Chickenzilla in shows.” Do you feel that the lack of Chickenzilla in any District Theater shows impacted the theater greatly? Also, do you think that things might have been different had you been able to cast international raconteur, thespian and cocksman Russell Lee in anything?
A: Russell Lee was the center of the entertainment vortex and without him and Chickenzilla leading the way we will just continue to swirl on this rock we call a planet.
Q: What are your plans for the future and what final words do you have in regard to the District Theater?
A: The time also came for me to step back and focus on things I’ve neglected in the last couple years. My family, my career and my mental and physical health. People forget that in addition to being this well-known Quad City artist I am also a person and need to on occasion do some work on me. Unfortunately, I was never good about that and I’m learning that the hard way. We all need a break and shove in a different direction. As my man Walt Disney said, “Sometimes a kick in the teeth can be the best thing for you.”