Otterbein Sophomore Brings Accessibility to the Arts by Founding Theatre Company
Posted Jul 02, 2021
Jackson Gifford ’24 has a passion for making theater more accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds — one that led to the founding of a professional theatre company in Oklahoma City. His non-profit organization, Southern Plains Productions, Inc., has been operating since December 2020.
Gifford, a musical theatre major with a minor in dance, has always had more than performing on his list of goals. After an experience that allowed him to see and better understand the need for access to the arts by all ages and economic backgrounds, he decided to form his own theater company. The community embraced the idea almost immediately.
“Several established members of the Oklahoma City arts community reached out to me in support of our company and vision,” he said. “We have a small staff and board of directors made up of community members and artists from around the nation.”
True to the cause that sparked the organization, Southern Plains Productions places accessibility to the arts at the forefront of their work. According to Gifford, 10% of tickets to each show are given to the community to reach new audiences. The company also makes a concerted effort to champion early-career artists and provide them with an opportunity to collaborate on a professional level.
The company’s inaugural production, Sarah Ruhl’s “Small Mouth Sounds,” was staged outdoors in Oklahoma City’s Myriad Botanical Gardens in June 2021.
“As you might imagine, having a show in an outdoor setting comes with a million logistical challenges. On opening night, we experienced a rain delay, but everyone took it in stride,” Gifford said. “It was amazing to watch the entire cast, crew, and even patrons come together to protect equipment, wipe down seats, and offer to help in any way they could.”
While he has been dreaming about running his own company for some time, the 19-year-old sophomore has already identified Otterbein as a positive factor in making that dream a reality.
“Even though I have only been studying at Otterbein for a year, I have adopted the mentality of a self-sufficient artist. Otterbein has given me an appreciation for the many different departments and people that bring a show to life,” he said.
Gifford and his team at Southern Plains Productions are already making plans for their next project to be produced in the summer of 2022. For more information, visit the company’s website www.southernplainsproductions.org and follow them on social media: @southernplainsproductions.
Learn more about studying in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Otterbein.
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