As unlikely as it sounds, Beth McDonnell fell in love with theater growing up in Anchorage, Alaska. She took acting, dancing and singing classes as a kid, but it was a trip to New York City at the age 13 that sealed it. McDonnell attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and went on to a 10-year career on the stage. Upon relocating to Chester Springs, she launched the Company Theatre this past fall. It is currently in the midst of its inaugural season.
MLT: What inspired you to start the Company Theatre?
BM: I took a break from theater for a while. Performing can be a grueling career, and I did it for 10 years. I was burned out. Fast-forward 10 years. I started working for another theater company in the area. That basically made me go, “You know what? I’m just going to start my own little baby production company.” I just really wanted to do projects that I could stand behind.
MLT: What have been some of the rewards over the past year?
BM: Definitely working with Erin Dixon, my business partner. She’s been super dedicated to the Company, as have I. We’ve been fundraising, working with Lawyers for the Arts, who are assisting us in going nonprofit—just making it come together. Both of us have extremely high standards, which is why this whole company got started in the first place. We want to do shows that meet the standards of what we want to produce. It’s been great that we’ve been able to fulfill that mission and keep those artistic standards high.
MLT: What’s it been like bringing theater to your community?
BM: I just really love theater. And if you really, really love what you do and you have extremely high integrity in the way you do it, while also keeping your artistic vision at a certain level, I think it all ends up being something that makes the effort worthwhile. To me, making theater accessible for everyone and choosing material and shows everyone will enjoy is important.
MLT: What was it like to see your first production come to life?
BM: It was great—and it’s always like that with every show I’ve done. It’s always a lot of work and a lot of overtime, and you end up making pennies versus the amount of time you put in. But it’s always super rewarding, especially this show (The Emperor’s New Clothes), because it was our first show.
MLT: How about the future?
BM: I would love it if, five years from now, we were in our own space. I just want the ability to be able to work with people, and I want to be able to work with young artists—to teach them about the business and about the reality of the business in New York.