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Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Laura Beeman Nugent Shines

Laura Beeman Nugent

Laura Beeman Nugent has been named the new artistic director of Shreveport Little Theatre.

New leadership to take the helm at Shreveport Little Theatre

If asked to come up with a one-word descriptor for Laura Beeman Nugent, those who know her would probably unanimously choose enthusiastic or some synonym thereof.

Shreveport Little Theatre has known about and appreciated Beeman Nugent for years as a director, choreographer and all-around creative. Now, they are taking full advantage of her talent and bubbly nature.

As of May 1, the theater board named her the theater’s artistic director. They also named Kelly Berne as managing director. When the board made the decision to find someone to step into the roles that Robert K. Darrow, PhD, had filled, they determined to split the managing and artistic director into two separate positions as a more efficient solution.

“So that there was a part-time artistic person and a part-time managing person to balance everything out,” explained Nugent. “I still have my full-time teaching position at Loyola. She (Berne) has about six months left of her Masters of Non-Profit and is on assistantship (at LSUS).”

Beeman Nugent said her role will be to oversee the artistic side of SLT and its Academy for Children. Her duties will entail hiring directors, leading the production teams, keeping all those efforts running smoothly and creatively, acting as spokesperson and working with Berne on grants and with the board of directors on selecting the shows making up their new seasons.

“All of the people who work at the theater are part-time,” Beeman Nugent said. “When we look at how we coordinate production meetings and make sure that, visually, what we are offering our patrons is up to par. Our tech director is a full-time technical theater teacher at Caddo Magnet, and his name is John Allen. David White from BPCC is coming in and lending some of his expertise as well. That’s probably the biggest challenge. Just trying to shift our schedules and make certain that everything happens, knowing that most of the work we do is full-time.”

For example, in one recent week, she was at the theater from 8 a.m. to 10:30 at night with only about a 30-minute break between different rehearsals. “It is definitely a passion project for all of us,” she said.

Being a community theater, she explained, with limited seating makes it fiscally logical to hire only part-time employees. Even if they only paid minimum wage, the cost would be more than the theater could afford. She said a lot of blood, sweat and tears go into producing community theater that audience members may not appreciate. Box office, stage managers, property assistants, costumers, lighting and sound designers work tireless hours, not to mention the actors who devote large swaths of time to learning lines and creating their roles.

As Beeman Nugent settles into the new role, she said her goal is to keep SLT moving forward. “I will direct two shows during the season, one being the summer musical and one being a show of my choice. I’ve sent out (notices) to a lot of area directors and even to some as far as Ruston and Monroe and said if you are interested in directing any show during our season, please contact me. (We’re) trying to open up those doors, not to just people in the Shreveport/Bossier area, but beyond, saying bring your artistry to the stage.”

She said they want to explore the possibility of staged readings of playwrights who are unpublished or not widely known. As she describes it, the Little Theatre Academy is “wildly successful, and we’ve got a waitlist of kids who want to participate. And I have always been (aware of) how SLT influenced me as a teen. Its seeds that we’re planting that we won’t see grow for years to come. We’re giving students, children, young actors in the area a place to explore and to grow. Even if 15 years from now they’re just an audience member because they had a great run at SLT, then we are still teaching that love and appreciation and building our audience base.”

She sees her role as an entertainer and community representative. “As a community theater, it is our duty to serve all areas of our community and make sure all areas of our community can see their point of view and voice on stage. There may be some things that aren’t the happy-go-lucky, feel-good musicals, the comedies, that the core audience base loves. But it is our job as a community theater to make sure all voices are represented.”

As SLT rolls into its 103rd consecutive season, Beeman Nugent has a clear goal: “making sure that we continue to do what’s right so that we can celebrate 200 years.”


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