Throughout every obstacle or moment of adversity in life there are doubts that linger in the back of one’s mind.
Can I pick myself up?
Can I achieve what I am supposed to achieve?
Can I continue to make those around me proud, and give them motivation going forward?
For the Actor’s Repertory Theatre of Idaho (ARTI), the past decade of labor, effort, and dedication can easily answer those three questions with an enthusiastic “YES.”
Seven years after a debilitating fire tore through the then newly-renovated ARTI theater in Idaho Falls, the theater group, composed of mainly volunteer local performers, has thrived. Attendance has risen, interest has grown, and the theater has continued to pique the attention of eastern Idaho on a yearly basis.
This interest has continued into the latest run for the ARTI theater in Idaho Falls. For the next two weeks, from Thursday to Saturday, the company will be showcasing their latest project “New Country” until Oct. 28, in front of nearly sold-out crowds.
It is an exciting time for Kevin Odette, a Chicago native and director of community relations for ARTI, and his colleagues as they prepare for the fall and winter slate.
“I moved here about 21 years ago, and for several years I didn’t even know this place existed,” Odette said. “I thought ‘well, I might have lost a lot of the culture from living in a big city before,’ but a couple years back I found this place and thought ‘wow. These folks are actually really good actors and actresses and put on quality productions.’”
What resulted has been a sort of phenomenon in the eastern Idaho community. For years, the folks at ARTI have been regularly performing unique, entertaining, and sometimes risque on-stage shows for the masses in Idaho Falls. Delivering this “entertainment focal point” that ARTI performances provide for the arts community in eastern Idaho is something Odette does not take lightly; primarily with helping spread awareness of the great arts culture within the community as a whole.
“One of the main things we are concerned about is keeping arts alive in this city,” he said. “People are now coming that are just astounded about the story of how this community supported the people here and supported the theater.”
And that story brings about the rise of ARTI. Seven years ago, a fire tore through the ARTI theater in downtown Idaho Falls. When it was extinguished, all that was left were a few charred props and clothes from prior performances.
But from that catastrophic moment, the community that surrounded ARTI showed its true colors, helping bring the theater back.
“The community really came out, and they helped to get the place ready in time for the next show, which was a few weeks down the road,” Odette said. “Everything we lost in the fire, as far as props, clothes, and everything, people have just donated so much to the theater that it’s such an encouragement.
“Without the community stepping up and helping to rebuild this place, I don’t think we would be where we are.”
Even the theater, where the fire occurred, has seen a significant upgrade over the years.
“We call it ‘The Phoenix’ for a reason” Odette said. “The ‘rising from the ashes’ metaphor. We were able to retain a lot of the original building’s beauty, but we’ve also been able to outfit the place to allow people to come and enjoy.”
Today, ARTI remains a thriving production, fighting against the battle of fire and the commonly-held perception of theater performances in smaller towns in an effort to continue promoting arts and entertainment within eastern Idaho.
And for Odette, he would not have it any other way.
“There’s nothing better than an audience coming and laughing for an entire evening, leaving and thinking ‘wow, that was the greatest evening this entire week.’”