Jeff Casey, managing director of Hammond’s Towle Theater, saw a niche in the Region’s theater strata that needed to be filled when conceptualizing his ensemble’s artistic objectives.
"We knew when we were opening that NWI was already saturated with community theaters dotted all over Lake, LaPorte and Porter Counties,” he said. “Our goal immediately was to present works, pieces that other people weren't presenting.”
Towle, which is located in Hammond at 5205 Hohman Ave., opened its doors for the first time in 2003. It’s first end-of-year-production, the original musical revue “A Fabulous '50s Christmas,” remains a regional holiday tradition for both Towle and holiday theatergoers after a decade and a half.
Director of administration Kevin Bellamy came into the fold in 2005 and the pair have remained true to their goals from 15 years ago. With few exceptions, every production staged by Towle over the course of a season is a Region premiere, state premiere and, in a few cases, national or even world debut.
“Our artistic vision was always to do premiere work,” Casey said. “We didn't want to add to what was already a robust landscape of presenting the same things over again.”
Towle also provides a venue for area visual artists to showcase their works with regular exhibits brought to Towle by South Shore Arts.
While proud of his company’s long running track record of bringing innovative new works to Region audiences, Casey, who also formed the Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation a quarter century ago, cited the creation of the Towle Youth Theater Ensemble as his greatest accomplishment.
Created in 2010, the Youth Ensemble provides aspiring youngsters the chance to work hands-on, be it in front of or behind the curtain, in a professional theater setting.
“Not many kids that are passionate about theater have something beyond their school, and for many members of our youth ensemble, they don't have that outlet, except for the occasional community theater production,” Casey said. “We allow them to explore their creativity in an environment outside of school, so it's void of cliques and all those other things that high school comes with.”
Towle Youth Theater Ensemble’s fall production, the musical “Heathers,” ran in October.
Towle will closes out its 2017 season with the annual “Fabulous '50s Christmas.” The show runs through Dec. 17. Reservations for “Fabulous” are highly recommended, as shows for the music revue frequently sell out.
Towle Theater’s 2018 season kicks off Feb. 23 with the comedy “Pageant Play.” The musicals “Little by Little,” which runs May 4 through 20, and “Fun Home,” running July 13-29, and comedy “Cockeyed,” which runs Sept. 7 through 23, round out Towle’s 2018 season.
“We have listened to our people, and for the most part, they really really want, in our non-musicals, to see comedy, and we really paid attention to that,” Casey said of their upcoming season. “(The comedies) are absurdist and funny and take an interesting perspective of people in general. They have observations of the world we live in.”
For more on Towle Theater, call 219-937-8780 or visit TOWLETHEATER.ORG.