A Song in the Dark: Katie Roche

A piece reflecting on our theme of gratitude during “Celebrate Local: 10 Years of the New Englert” celebrations

From Development Director Katie Roche

As the development director for the Englert Theatre I think about gratitude a lot. I think about the selflessness, dedication and intelligence of the people that worked to “Save the Englert” in order for the Englert to reopen 10 years ago. I think about the staff in the early days who navigated getting this place up and running, despite the growing pains that all non-profits experience in their early days. They were working the equivalent to multiple full time jobs, while wearing a couple hats at once, all while under the close scrutiny of the supporters and naysayers who wondered about the future of the Englert. I think about the volunteers who give of their time and talents to make this place run. I think about Carol and Tom Rosenberger who are here for hours and hours each week doing everything from helping in my office to taking out the recycling, to tracking down how to replace a damaged arm rest. I think about Kent Smith whose volunteer hours as head usher are equivalent to over 8 months of service, night and day. I think about my co-workers who are the smartest and hardest working people I have ever had the pleasure of serving on a team with, and with awe, I think of the artists who perform here, who elevate our human condition into song, dance, poetry, film, theater, as well as new and experimental art forms that change the way we think about how we can express ourselves.

Everyday when the mail comes, there it is. Expressions of support in the form of checks, in the form of thank you notes and notes that say things like “we’ve noticed- the Englert is doing great things”. Everyday, I open the mail and I am incredibly thankful for all the thoughtful people who have taken the time to support the theater.

I often come in before anyone else on our team does. The theater is dark and quiet and when things are particularly hectic I’ll pop my head into the grand room and sing a little tune into the darkness to remind myself that everything we do is to fill that empty space with art and people, to make something grand from nothing. I sing into the darkness to remind myself that that is where all art begins, that all art begins with a push into the world. As my voice fills the space and I remember moments where I’ve seen someone so turned on by the event they just experienced that they leave thanking every usher, every person wearing an Englert nametag; they approach the stage to thank Pete Becker or Nic Kraft for the great sound, they come up to me with tears or light in their eyes. They leave changed or full of questions, or with a new favorite song in their head. Something just happened to them, something important. Something moved them, filled them with passion, with memories, with excitement. They say thank you, and ask me to thank the performer on their behalf.

I’m thankful to be both an arts administrator and an artist, but being a member of an audience at a live performance always fills me with the most gratitude. A live performance feeds me in a way that watching a movie on my tablet never could, because the performing arts are not simply about entertainment, in fact that is rarely why I go to a show. The performing arts allow me to reflect on and celebrate our humanity through the exalted or simple, the ambitious or traditional art forms that, when shared in the presence of others truly stays with us throughout our days. We all need to feed ourselves in this way, whether we know it or not. We need that lyrical, interpretative landscape, that engaging escape, that moment when something moves us or speaks to us. What the Englert brings to our community is a necessity, not a luxury and I am so thankful that this fine old building is here, alive and thriving and doing what it was intended to do.

Like so many things, as the saying goes, “we don’t really realize what we’ve got until it’s gone”. I’m thankful that our community didn’t have to lose the Englert in order to understand what it could mean to us if restored. So thank you to all the wonderful people who opened your schedules, your hearts, your wallets to make the darkness sing again. I, for one, promise to keep singing.