Catering to Tri-State-area creativity

Life Artist Production Company stages improv and original works

Life Artist Production Company stages improv and original works

September 27, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Thespians Mike and Jenny Kreyl Shoeman wanted to offer more than run-of-the-mill stage shows when they launched Life Artist Production Company in May. The Franklin County, Pa., natives hoped to rally Tri-State actors and writers to find "unique and compelling ways to express the human experience through drama."

The Shoemans, who now live in Philadelphia, said funding constraints and indifference from local arts and media outlets have hampered their efforts - but they haven't given up their dream of offering thought-provoking theatrical experiences to viewers and a venue for area actors and writers to develop challenging, original works that promote personal growth and understanding.

Mike Shoeman, 28, invites local actors, writers and other creative types to help encourage communication and understanding about suicide through improvisation at "Improv" from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at Church of the Brethren in Chambersburg, Pa.


"I think it's wonderful because there's really nothing else in the community that combines drama with mental health," said Jenny Shoeman, 24.

Her husband said the free workshop will include fun, improvisational games designed to foster dialogue about suicide. Participants need not be actors because the workshop will focus more on creativity as a whole in a nurturing environment - an environment in which the hosts are "appreciative of the courage it takes for people to sit down and contribute to the discussion," Mike Shoeman said.

"It's really more of a personal growth thing," he said. "We take a lot of pride in the emotional impact we offer at an affordable price - free."

Nurturing local theater

Maintaining their local roots, the Shoemans have independently produced such theatrical productions as "Simply Steinower" and "Crystal Weeds" in the Tri-State area each summer for the past three years, they said. The founding of Life Artist Production Company was an extension of the couple's local work, Jenny Shoeman said.

A Chambersburg native, she is a full-time drama teacher at Renaissance Academy-Edison Charter School in Phoenixville, Pa. Her play about Bette Davis and other legendary movie actresses, "Crystal Weeds," debuted in Philadelphia in February. When he's not working his day job at a financial firm, Greencastle, Pa., native Mike Shoeman enjoys teaching drama and participating in theatrical events. He's created at least 30 characters - including Sister Mary Goliath the Nun-Chucking Nun, for which his main prop is a pair of rulers tied together to resemble the martial arts weapon - while working with comedy improv throughout the city. Shoeman also has worked as an understudy for several Tony Award-winning actors, he said.

His improv work prompted Shoeman to start the Life Artist Interactive Comedy Experience, a monthly improvisational workshop created as a training ground for young artists to conceive and begin to develop characters such as those on "Saturday Night Live" and "Mad TV," he said. Participation was low but enjoyment high at the four Life Artist Interactive Comedy Experience sessions this summer, Shoeman said.

"The audiences were small but they laughed a lot," he said.

The theater company in July also produced two dramas - "The Red Line," playwright Marcus Steinower's depiction of Hell, and "Harris Superman," Jenny Shoeman's depiction of Heaven - as part of the "A Step Beyond" play festival at Star Theatre in Mercersburg, Pa.

Life Artist Production Company has relied primarily upon grants to fund productions, Jenny Shoeman said. The company lacks advertising funds but needs to spread the word about auditions and upcoming productions.

"We can't keep going without having people in the audience," she said.

The Shoemans had hoped to cap Life Artist Production Company's first year with "Icon," a full-length play about a reality TV show featuring unscripted dramatic performances, but the company has been unable to secure a marketable venue in the Tri-State area, Mike Shoeman said. Some local arts organizations - including the Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg - didn't return his phone calls, he said.

"I think there's a lot of skepticism," Shoeman said. "And I just think the communication needs a little more improvement."

Capitol Theatre Manager Linda Beckman acknowledged difficulty connecting with Shoeman earlier this year but said she'd like to work with Life Artist Production Company in the future.

"I think getting this community interested in the arts, finding the niche that's going to appeal to this area, is a challenge," Beckman said.

To learn more about Life Artist Production Company, call the Shoemans at 1-610-304-8943 or send e-mail to

If you go ...


4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2

Church of the Brethren

260 S. Fourth St.

Chambersburg, Pa.


For more information, call Kenny Wuertenberg at 1-717-264-4301.

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