A new theatre company has come to Kenmore.
As If Theatre Company, performing at the historic Kenmore Community Club, was founded by three women passionate about the performing arts: Cindy Giese French, Amy Gentry and Molly Hall.
Gentry said she has been wanting to go back to her acting roots for many years. She connected with French and Hall, and the three of them began to discuss what opportunities there are for middle-aged women seeking to return to the stage.
Between French, Gentry and Hall, they share a lifetime’s worth of theatre experience.
French, As If Theatre’s artistic director, has acted, written, directed and produced theatre and film in the Seattle area for decades. Though she started acting in elementary school, she said her love of theatre blossomed in Hjalmer Anderson’s drama class at Inglemoor High School.
After completing her education at Washington State University, she performed throughout theatres in Seattle and the Eastside such as Edmonds Driftwood Players, The Phoenix Theater, Woodinville Repertory, Annex Theater and most recently Lamplight Productions.
For the past 18 years, French has been a real estate broker for Coldwell Banker Bain. However, she said she’s excited to enter back into theatre and starting a new theatre company in her hometown.
Gentry, the As If Theatre’s managing director, has worked in theatrical marketing for over a decade. After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theatre from Virginia Commonwealth University, she moved to New York City where she promoted Broadway shows to the travel industry, and worked at the Broadway advertising agency, Serino Coyne. Continuing her career in theatrical marketing, Amy stepped into lead marketing for the Family Tours division of Broadway Across America. For 10 years, she created all materials, promotions, and marketing guidelines for several tours with Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers, Mattel, and Dreamworks.
Gentry was also the Managing Director at Edmonds Driftwood Players for a year before moving to ACT Theatre. After a 20-year hiatus from acting, she said she is thrilled to be back on stage.
Hall, As If Theatre’s engagement director, has been a theatre artist for over 25 years as an actor, choreographer, theatre educator and writer. She has performed with Seattle Repertory Theatre, Freehold Theatre Lab, Belltown Theatre Center, Montana Shakespeare in the Schools, Driftwood Players Theatre, Kitsap Forest Theater, Red Rover Theatre Co. and Lamplight Productions.
Hall is currently a children’s drama and dance teacher at an independent K-5 school. She adores sharing her love of theatre and movement with the next generation of creative artists. Hall has an Master of Fine Arts degree in acting from the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program.
Through months of discussion, the three began to seriously plan on opening a new theatre company in late summer 2018.
“The more we talked the more we realized that we could really do this—we could make this into a solid business,” Gentry said.
The only question was “where?”
For French, Gentry and Hall, they wanted to create this theatre company where there was a need for the arts.
“French is from the Kenmore area and she told us that there weren’t many creative or artistic spaces for people to use or enjoy,” Gentry said. We looked around the area and it just revealed itself to us.”
As If Theatre is now at “home” at the historic Kenmore Community Club.
“The open hall is perfect for us and provides a great creative space,” Gentry said. “And the community is thrilled that we’re here—it’s all coming together.”
With their location set, As If Theatre had to find a script for their first production. French, Gentry and Hall discussed what kind of plays they would want to perform in.
“What are the roles for middle-aged women?” Gentry said. “We really wanted to find scripts that resonated with us and who we are now. We don’t always want to be cast as the crazy or hilarious neighbor.”
That’s when the agreed to do “The Clean House” by Sarah Ruhl.
The play tells the story of Lane, a doctor, who values order in every aspect of her life – her career, her house, her emotions, her relationships. Her live-in Brazilian maid, Matilde, finds cleaning makes her sad and yearns to be a stand-up comedian; while Lane’s sister Virginia finds solace in cleaning and secretly takes over Matilde’s duties.
When Lane’s husband, a surgeon, falls in love with a terminally-ill patient, everything that was clean and tidy for Lane is thrown into disarray, and she must turn to the women in her life to help sort out the mess.
Blending whimsical humour with wisdom and compassion, this romantic comedy about love, sex, death – and finding the perfect joke – proves that shared laughter can heal almost anything.
“We really loved this play because it captures how life really is—life is terrible and hilarious and you have to embrace that or you’ll go crazy,” Gentry said.
Gentry also said another attraction to this play is that it is led by women, and the story follows women finding each other and supporting each other.
Gentry said she is amazed everything has come together in such a short period of time. While starting a new business is a challenge, she said it’s been “so rewarding.”
“It’s so satisfying to put so much work into this and to see it pay off. We got really lucky,” she said.
For French, Gentry and Hall, the name “As If” for their theatre company came from their life philosophy.
“It’s as if we’ve been doing it all along—Behave as if we’re supposed to have this theatre company. If you behave as though you’re supposed to be doing it, you will,” Gentry said.
As If Theatre Company will be debuting its first production on Feb. 8, and will conclude on Feb. 24. Tickets are available through brown paper tickets. For more information about As If Theatre Company, visit their website, asiftheatre.com.