by Gene Marrano
Mill Mountain Theatre hasn’t been completely dark since live professional productions shut down there several years ago, but now MMT has taken a big step forward as it looks to raise the curtain again: the theatre’s Board of Directors has hired a new producing artistic director.
Scott Treadway will become the second Mill Mountain Theatre employee of its new era on June 1. He comes to Roanoke from Flat Rock Playhouse (the State Theatre of North Carolina) in Western North Carolina, where he has served in various capacities over the past 27 years. The University of Tennessee graduate has experience on the stage as well, appearing in over 140 productions from Miami to Milwaukee. Treadway recalls attending a performance at Mill Mountain Theatre some time in the late 1980’s.
Ginger Poole, Mill Mountain Theatre’s Managing Director and Director of Education, was formerly employed by Flat Rock Playhouse. The only paid employee at Mill Mountain recently, she has known Treadway for over a decade. “We’ve worked on stage [in various capacities] and have a long history together.”
Poole, who said MMT will have an interim season until it officially reopens as a professional live theater venue in December 2013, is “very lucky” to have landed Treadway. The grand reopening will coincide with the remodeled Center in the Square’s planned reopening. Mill Mountain will then be “a different kind of theater,” said Poole. Until late 2013 the smaller Waldron stage on Church Avenue will host productions, with the Trinkle Main Stage off limits due to construction at Center, which is slated to start in June.
Poole lauds the board of directors for the approach employed to bring the theater back, “slowly, cautiously and correctly. Roanoke is going to dictate to us what we can put on that stage.” Productions on the Waldron stage will retain the high production values MMT was known for, according to Poole, as they “strive to knock it out of the ballpark.”
Treadway will move to Roanoke with his young daughter by June 1. Poole said hiring him was an important statement: “I think the timing is right. I think it’s now or never. We’ve got to make the next step to keep [regional professional theater] intact.” Conversations about what productions to stage have already begun. “The wheels are turning,” said Poole.
Treadway is excited about his career change: “Mill Mountain has always been one of those big companies you knew about growing up in the southeast,” said the Johnson City, TN native, “one of those success stories you always heard about.” MMT’s closing several years ago “reverberated throughout the industry, we couldn’t believe it,” said Treadway. He left Flat Rock last December and had planned to focus on his photography, before Poole convinced him to take a look at Mill Mountain’s plans. He was impressed by the board’s approach and soon it became “a love affair,” said Treadway, who originally acted just as a consultant for the process of bringing the theater back. It doesn’t hurt that he finds Roanoke a vibrant place: “I love the city.”
The community involvement he sees in trying to bring MMT back impressed him. “There’s just such an anticipation to see the theater get back on line,” said Treadway, “this is a guaranteed success story. He’ll spend much of the next 18 months selling Mill Mountain to sponsors, donors and patrons.
“We have to earn the public’s trust. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take many, many productions of consistent quality.” Treadway said it’s all about earning respect and trust. Flat Rock was drawing about 90,000 patrons a year when he left, after a cautious and slow buildup. Look for fewer plays, with down time and dark months to build anticipation for the new season.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” said Poole, “I know what Scott is going to bring to the table, not only in talent and leadership, but what he’s going to bring to the community. We’ve been carrying the torch – and now it hasn’t been in vain. It’s really important to take this next step.”