Cookeville merchants ‘fearless’ in support of musical

Friday, June 24, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 26
By Tim Ghianni

COOKEVILLE – City Cultural Arts Superintendent Chad McDonald admits to never having seen such a fuss as that which surrounds “Fearless!” and its eight performances at the city performing arts center.

He says that four plays are put on in the city arts center each year, but this is the first time an outsider or outsiders had rented the theater to stage such a huge undertaking.

“What’s unusual about their show is that it is an original script they are producing for the first time,” McDonald says.

“Most of the shows we do are licensed from publishing houses. They’ve already been produced on Broadway or whatever, then they are opened for amateur licensing, which allows groups like ours to do these shows,” he explains.

So while other shows are basically community theater and well past their ripe Broadway years, “Fearless!” is unfolding on the stage in Cookeville’s historic section (the theater shares the roof with the police station, by the way), as a piece of fresh fruit ready for ripening toward a hoped-for Broadway presentation.

McDonald notes that in addition to his four shows a year, Cookeville Children’s Theater “produces at least two shows a year” and other amateur theatrical groups also use the space.

And that’s not to mention things like the dance performances that filled the stage earlier this spring for several weeks.

“The thing that’s unusual about their show is the number of sponsors they’ve pulled together,” he says, noting it is hardly unusual for merchants and organizations to help fund local productions.

“Every show here gets sponsorships from local merchants. What we’ve found in Cookeville is that most merchants will support the arts.”

But there is a big-dollar difference.

While most of the shows get 6-10 sponsors, “Fearless!” – thanks to the tireless efforts of Hal Alpiar and the generosity of the local mercantile and civic population – now has more than 100. And that number will continue to grow.

“The unusual thing for Hal and Valerie [Connelly] is just the enthusiasm and just the number they’ve been able to pull together,” McDonald says.

And then there is the product placement – the signage, logos, bicycle, T-shirts, furniture and even the puppies that will help bring the show to life and, through sponsorship fees charged, help finance the play.

“Product placement doesn’t happen in any other shows,” he adds. “When we ask for sponsorships, most include advertising in the program, but not onstage.”

Tickets are available now at the box office or at Tickets are $16 apiece, $12 for seniors, $10 for students and children and a special package of five tickets or more is available for $10 per ticket.