By ALEX LEWIS
COLUMBIA — A new theater group in Columbia was born in a moment this summer. The Independent Actor’s Theatre, or IAT, took shape when Charles Willis, Shawna Kelty and Ross Taylor were talking casually about what they see as a lack of adult-centric theater in town and suddenly they were starting their own.
The idea behind IAT is that groups such as PACE, Performing Arts in Children’s Education, and TRYPS, Theater Reaching Young People and Schools, focus more on family and children’s theater, leaving some great performance pieces unseen because they might not be considered “kid-friendly.”
“I think we have an audience that’s craving something that’s not the ‘Sound of Music,’” Kelty said.
Although Willis, Kelty and Taylor serve as IAT’s chairman, treasurer and secretary, they also make up the acting crew. The group gains certain advantages because of their super-exclusivity, Taylor said.
“We don’t have to pay anyone, and we can always count on each other to be there,” he said.
But the most important thing about working in a small group of close friends is that they know each other well. “We have lots of trust and respect for one another,” Taylor said.
All three met in MU’s theater program; Willis and Kelty in 1998, and then Taylor in 2002. Both Willis and Taylor trace their love of theater back to high school, whereas Kelty can’t pinpoint when the acting bug bit her.
“It’s just something I can’t not do,” she said.
Although the group is still in its infancy, it has a full agenda.
The first performance will be the two-person piece “The Blue Room” by David Hare. Taylor and Kelty will act while Willis directs.
After the inaugural piece, the group hopes to perform two holiday works for December, “The Santaland Diaries” and “Seasons Greetings.”
Next spring, IAT plans to perform “Orange Flower Water” by Craig Wright. The group’s goal is to move from one piece right into the next. “I get antsy if I’m not working,” Taylor said.
Although no particulars are available yet, IAT plans to offer acting classes for area theater buffs next year. “People interested in the classes should already have basic training,” Willis added.
For now, however, IAT is focusing on its first performance. Willis is happy with the group’s choice to showcase adult-oriented pieces but reminds potential audiences that it’s completely inappropriate for children.
“Parents are encouraged to come,” he said, “but get a baby sitter.”