“What do I want to see more of? Collaboration – theatres working together, sharing knowledge, sharing resources, and helping each other.”
A Conversation with Tam DeBolt, Artistic Director of Terrific New Theatre
Interview by Meg Nelson
Photo Courtesy of Tam DeBolt
Last fall, you became Terrific New Theatre’s new Artistic Director, taking the reins from founding Artistic Director Carl Stewart, who retired after thirty years. What inspired you to take on this role?
I have always, in the back of my mind, had running a theatre on my “to do” list. Later in life…in a resort town somewhere…where I could run a little theatre for the people that vacationed there. Wherever “there” ended up being. It was the fact that Carl announced his retirement that inspired me to take the chance NOW and apply for the job. Plus…TNT is exactly the KIND of theatre I would want to be in charge of. Carl has created something quite unique, with a loyal following, a solid history, and a special place in the fabric of its city. I am honored to be here.
Speaking of roles, your face is certainly familiar to Birmingham theatergoers for all of your incredible work on the stage. You also direct, most recently Love is a Blue Tick Hound at TNT. How do these experiences inform your work as Artistic Director?
Thank goodness Carl Stewart takes my phone calls…he continues to counsel me, give me advice, and talk me off the ledge more often than I care to admit. I am learning how to BE an Artistic Director…from Carl, from trial and error, and (best of all) from the patrons themselves. They want Terrific New Theatre to stay open and be successful…it’s THEIR theatre; it’s OUR theatre; TNT belongs to Birmingham. I believe this is true for all community theatre, and I want to make sure I never forget it. That said, my experience onstage, directing, designing, and volunteering just makes me familiar to Birmingham theatregoers. That, in itself, makes this transition less scary for everybody…including me. I have been IN shows that audiences love, like, and…well, I’ve been in some duds. As performers, we have a sense of what people like, and I believe that helps me in presenting theatre that people will enjoy. This is certainly not an exact science.
What do you consider particular areas of strength for Birmingham’s theater scene? What would you like to see more of?
Area of strength? That’s easy: talent, talent, and…did I say talent? Performers, directors, technical people…this city is RICH with individuals that love the opportunity to work on their skills. In every category. I want to make TNT a place where those artists come…to work, to learn, to be a part of live theatre. I also want it to be a place where theatregoers can’t wait to be. What do I want to see more of? Collaboration…theatres working together, sharing knowledge, sharing resources, and helping each other. I feel like we are partners in giving the people of Birmingham a regular dose of comedy, drama, horror, and musical theatre.
Do you have any advice for readers who may be new to town and want to get involved?
Just do it. I had a patron at today’s show stop at the box office to give me her phone number and email. She loved the props in BINGO! The Winning Musical so much that she asked how could she help gathering props for the next show. You can get involved by serving on the board or by signing up to be an usher. Call me at 205-328-0868 or email me to be a part of what’s happening at TNT. Also, we will do our best to always have auditions for every piece we put on the stage and THAT is another way to be involved. We are always looking for new directors and stage managers, too. Giving back to your community is a great deal of fun, and I recommend it.
How has the city’s creative community as a whole evolved since you moved to Birmingham?
I have been here since the fall of 1998, and in that time new theatres have been born…such as Theatre Downtown, City Equity Theatre, South City Theatre, and Central Alabama Theatre. Leadership has changed: Red Mountain Theatre Company and Birmingham Children’s Theatre, among others. Major renovation took place…most namely, Virginia Samford Theatre. Technology has changed the way we reach our patrons: social media, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The art-loving people of Birmingham can see live theatre nearly every weekend of the calendar year. It’s exciting, it’s thrilling, and I am lucky to be a part of what makes Birmingham such a vibrant city.