From Such Humble Beginnings…

Back in 1995, Bo Cecil, Billy Blake Hall, and Craig Swatt decided to write a musical based on the old Greek myth about the world’s first woman, Pandora. She’s mostly remembered for opening a jar releasing all of the earth’s evils. They never wrote that musical.

Instead, the trio produced Falsettos, a James Lapine and William Finn production that had debuted on Broadway three years earlier. The Louisville production opened at the (old) Alley Theater. Working conditions weren’t the best. Backstage was cramped. The stage was tiny. The set was from the previous show. The costumes came from the actors and their friends’ closets. And the props were picked from curbside trash.

Then came rehearsals and opening night. After the final curtain in the sold-out theater, the foot-stomping, cheering audience shook the walls and floor. Pandora Productions was born. Through the rest of the ’90s the company managed to produce one or two shows annually, including ‘night, Mother, Jeffry, and The Ballad of Little Mikey.

By 1999 all three original founders had left Pandora and actor Michael Drury took over. “I had dreamed of having a theatre company that presented theatre of social relevance,” Michael recalled. “I struggled for a while trying to make Pandora fit a broader mission, that of social issues, when really all she ever wanted to be was a GLBT themed theatre.”

..male actors in drag is the source of much of the humor, and is as effective as it is here largely due to the expert playing of those donning wigs and brassieres. The ensemble is without shame in their attack and willingness to look utterly ridiculous when necessary… Keith Waits, Arts-Louisville.com || Devil Boys From Beyond

The following year Michael made his producing debut as co-producer of Kiss of the Spider Woman. He was also busy turning Pandora into a formal organization with a board of directors and nonprofit, or 501(c)3, status.

Prior to the 2004-2005 season–a season that included such notable plays such as Paul Rudnick’s The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, and Moises Kaufman’s Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde–Pandora sold its first subscriptions. For the next two years subscriptions grew dramatically. The 2005-2006 season saw the number of subscribers increase by 300 percent. And the following season they increased another 100 percent.

Just as Pandora appeared to be taking off the economy crashed. The great recession of 2008. “It almost devastated us,” Michael says. “I gave up my salary for the last six months of that season and we cut all designer and actor stipends as well as some marketing and other cuts. All of those things put us over the top and got us through.” Not to mention a very generous donation from benefactor Cliff Todd that was given on the condition that it be matched. Our audience stepped up to the plate and matched it so that all stipends and salaries were restored before the start of the next season.

Over the years Pandora has had several homes. The company moved to the Bunbury Theater for its 2007-2008 season and then had to move in 2010 to Actors Theater. Two seasons later Pandora happily returned to the old Bunbury, which had been renamed the Henry Clay Theater.

Pandora, like many arts organizations, has always had to struggle. It has survived hard times for nearly two decades. What keeps Pandora going? “We don’t ever forget in the board room or the rehearsal hall that we have a mission to fulfill,” Michael says, “so we are always working in service to the mission first and foremost.”

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