GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - After bouncing around from theater to theater for the first few years, Downstage Productions has found a home in the Bayou View area of Gulfport. The old Westminster Academy has been converted into a space that helps the theater company educate and entertain those that walk through its doors.
Trae Spears is the President of Downstage Productions. His company was born out of the desire to do theater without having to ask permission.
“It actually was several people from different theater companies just talking about shows that we wanted to do," Spears said. "But, their seasons were already full, and they didn’t have time for more shows.”
After Spears decided whether his company would be for profit or nonprofit, it was time for the first show.
“The first show that we did under the nonprofit status was ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’" Spears said.
It was Spears’s first show as a child and his company’s first hit. It was the start of a host of major productions for Downstage over the next four years. It was in 2017 when Spears said it was time for a place of his own.
“We did a lot of shows at the Saenger, and just throughout that we decided we wanted to get out own building, and then we just kind of stumbled upon this building," Spears told WLOX.
The old school didn’t have working air conditioning and looked nothing like a theater, Spears said. However, with the help of his family and the cast of Legally Blonde, the theater’s opening cast, Spears said his risk was rewarded. Now in his sixth season, Downstage Productions Theatre is currently showing Steel Magnolias with a virtually novice cast.
“Four of our six actresses are brand new, so that was kind of interesting. It was kind of fun to sit down with them on our first table read," Spears said. "It’s been a joy to sit and watch these six women do this show with more than half of them having never done this before.”