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Evansville Civic Theater director fosters hometown talent

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By Rachel Christian

At first glance, it seems like Mount Vernon High School drama coach Kevin Roach is running a one-man show at the Evansville Civic Theater.

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Roach, a Mount Vernon native, serves as creative director at the non-profit theater that produces about six stage shows during a typical 10 month season.

Roach has worked both on and off stage at the community theater for years, but only landed his current position about a month ago when Christina Hager, the former executive director of the Civic Theater, resigned. As the board continues to discuss staff restructuring and possible hiring timelines, the show, as they say, must still go on.

“It was a great opportunity for Christina and I’m glad she pursued it,” Roach said. “But after she was gone, I was more or less in charge of everything she used to do. From answering the phones to coaching the actors, I went from knowing how to do most of it, to having to know how to do all of it.”

Still, Roach will be the first to point out that he is far from a one-man show.

In fact, when it comes time for curtain, Roach is far from the stage lights. He can be found spectating quietly in the background, content to let his actors shine.

Roach, 33, fell in love with theater at a young age in his hometown. He immersed himself in the program at his high school, often volunteering nights and weekends to help build sets, sell tickets and memorize lines.

Roach said that although acting still remains his favorite skill, he is excited by the challenge of coordinating stage productions that entertain and connect to modern audiences.

The Civic Theater’s current production, The Wedding Singer, features three current or former Mount Vernon theater students as part of its ensemble cast: Pat Gerton, Chloe Farley and Quincy Irick.

“It is great to see them become a part of this and take on the extra work just to try and improve their skills, just because they are dedicated and feel passionately about it,” Roach said.

The Wedding Singer, a sometimes off-color and strikingly funny musical based on the 1990s movie, wraps up its three-week run at the Civic Theater this Saturday. Roach said he is proud of the work his cast, crew and supporters have accomplished during the 2016-2017 season.

“It can be a little nerve-wracking at times, but after a great show where a lot of people came, had a good time and enjoyed themselves, that’s a great feeling,” Road said.

The 222-seat theater was nearly sold out during its Saturday night performance. The seats were filled with a wide spectrum of audience members, from retired couples to high school kids to late twentysomethings and more than a few supportive parents. The actors themselves ranged from high schoolers to Bonnie Bartley in her 60s, who plays main character Robbie Hartman’s sweet but raunchy grandmother, Rosie.

Before the show begins, Roach gathers his cast’s attention for warm ups. They recite their exercises, practice crucial lines and walk their steps one final time across the stage.

They send up whoops of approval when Roach informs them that tickets sales are up that night, and again thanks them for their hard work and commitment.

They cheer and clap, wide smiles spread across their faces in the way they often are when a tight-knit group is on the cusp of accomplishment.

Roach said he is already looking forward to the Civic Theater’s next season, though after his first month, he also is thankful for the summer respite.

The added responsibilities may have been unexpected, but with the paint now dry on his new title, Roach said he intends to put forth his best effort and create entertainment that people from all around the community can enjoy.

“This is very much a team effort,” Roach noted. “We all believe in this together.”