Throughout its quarter-century, The Alley Theater has managed to create wonderful pop culture mashups and cutting-edge drama — both with a serious sense of purpose. Among my top-10 theater experiences is its 2010 production of “Point Break Live!”, which required folks in the front rows to wear rain gear — because the surfing scenes involved buckets of water. One of the most challenging plays I’ve ever seen was a production of “Coyote Ugly” last year. I’ve also enjoyed eating popcorn in that theater. And over the last year, under Joey Arena’s artistic leadership, the company has done stellar work.
Monday’s news that the company is gracefully closing the doors of its downtown theater after finishing up two scheduled productions this summer is sad. I’ll write about that in more depth when I can. For the moment, I will make a few observations. The spirit of the Alley Theater transcends the building. The creative folks in that company have been arts leaders in Louisville for a generation, and I cannot imagine they will disappear. The financial challenges of running a physical theater are enormous.
But Louisville’s theater scene has evolved to become the vital center of the city’s lively arts community. I have written before that Louisville’s independent theater scene is to theater as Asheville is to music — but I could just as well invoke Austin. It is rich in talent, drive and ambition. The death of a theater is a sad thing. Attention must be paid. But let’s also pay attention to the artistic successes The Alley achieved and to the work of the other great companies in the city. Check thealleytheater.org for information about upcoming performances and refunds for productions after the closing.