Theatre Changes Name to
The Palace Theatre of Brown County
by Barney Quick
courtesy photo of Platinum Girls
The theater in Coachlight Square, an anchor space in Nashville’s night life, will soon have a new name and identity, “The Palace Theatre of Brown County.” Brown County has had musical comedy theater in varying degrees over the years. The core group of Brad Zumwalt, Russell Moss, and Julie Powers have been presenting original shows for the past three years under the Coachlight Theatre name that a previous company had also used for productions. “It just made sense that we would create our own identity,” says Zumwalt. Moss adds that the new name will eliminate any confusion over whether visitors would see “old Coachlight” or “new Coachlight” productions.
“The theater had been run by people who did this as a side project,” explains Zumwalt. “We do this as our living. We’re also taking a different view of the talent pool in this area. Every single person working for us has a degree in his or her area of expertise.”
Two shows from last year, Platinum Girls and Cowboy Sweethearts, will be presented again, and two new shows, It’s Only Temporary, and Forever Vegas, will be presented as well. Zumwalt, Powers, and Moss conceived and developed them all. “We brought the two from last year back because tour bus groups requested it,” says Zumwalt.
Those shows have evolved from their original conceptions. “When Platinum Girls opened, it had seven people,” Zumwalt recalls. “We quickly realized we could not maintain shows that large. Downsizing it allowed us to flesh out the characters more. We based their traits on those of the actors and the chemistry has really intensified.” He describes it as “a very physical comedy.”
The team is having a great deal of fun developing It’s Only Temporary. “It’s based on an idea some of our actors had,” says Powers. The theme is the outsized aspirations of two young women working as temps in a New York office. One dreams of being a beauty queen and the other wants to star in a reality show. Their attempts to help each other make for a lot of outrageous situations. One of them designs costumes made out of recycled office supplies. Costumes include a coffee filter dress, a post-it note dress, and a garbage-bag evening gown.
The three owners are delighted with the level of dedication and experience their company players bring to the table. “We’re not students, and we are definitely a for-profit organization. We pay everyone here,” says Zumwalt. “How tight we are as a company is demonstrated by the fact that no cast members have understudies.”
The team’s aim is to get visitors to stay in Nashville for extended weekends. “That started happening last year,” Zumwalt says. “People saw one of our shows on Thursday night, and wanted to see our other shows on Friday and Saturday.”
The lobby will sport a palace-type feel, and its atmosphere will invite people to have interactive fun, such as taking a turn at the love tester, an old carnival novelty, or listening to a player piano. The box office will open at 2 pm on show days.
In addition to its own four shows, the Palace will be the new home for Robert Shaw’s Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash tributes, which have been popular with Brown County visitors. “Robert has a musical theater background, and his band is impeccably tight,” says Zumwalt. “They came to see our new sound system and were blown away. We’ve let him know that this can be his home base.”
The Palace team sees its niche as that of a workshop theater. “We have a broader vision than just presenting shows here,” explains Zumwalt. “They may debut here, but we craft them so that they can be done in several cities.”
Community involvement is important to the Palace Theatre team. In the past year, it has participated in the Humane Society’s Chocolate Walk, the We Care Gang’s outhouse race, and Christmas caroling. On March 5, it is hosting the Literacy Coalition’s Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser.
Education is another aspect of the Palace’s activity. It is partnering with the Literacy Coalition on a program for children that is still being developed.
Since the company also operates the BC Supper Club in Boggstown, Indiana, its three guiding forces stay busy. As Moss puts it, “Our social life is our public.”
The Palace Theatre of Brown County is located in Coachlight Square at 227 S. Van Buren Street in Nashville, Indiana. Tickets can be purchased on-line at <www.palacetheatreobc.com> or by calling the box office at (812) 988-2101.