Managing the Playhouse

By on 24 April, 2015 in Greg Thornton with 0 Comments

“Art for art’s sake? I should think so, and more so than ever at the present time. It is the one orderly product which our middling race has produced. It is the cry of a thousand sentinels, the echo from a thousand labyrinths, it is the lighthouse which cannot be hidden… it is the best evidence we can have of our dignity. “ -E. M. Forster

Emily Flowers on left (with Jesse Allston)  from Cabaret at the Cloverdale Playhouse. Photo by Mark Dauber.

Emily Flowers on left (with Jesse Allston) from Cabaret at the Cloverdale Playhouse. Photo by Mark Dauber.

Emily Flowers is the Managing Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse, though it is next to impossible to describe how many jobs she actually has. From managing the day-to-day operations, to fundraising and directing development, to marketing and public relations, to building maintenance and you name it, she does it. She was instrumental in the capital campaign that launched the Playhouse, helped in the renovation process that turned the Cloverdale Christian Church into the Cloverdale Playhouse and she was a member of the cast in Cabaret at the Playhouse.

Emily is a native of Montgomery. She attended Montgomery Academy and received her B.A. from the University of Alabama. She resides in Cloverdale with her husband Trey and their daughter Margaret, who is three years old and the CEO (Child Executive Officer) of the Playhouse.

Emily took some time (which she doesn’t have) to chat about all the plates she spins in her job(s).

Greg Thornton: You were one of the first to be involved in the development of the Cloverdale Playhouse. What was the initial thinking behind bringing community theater back to Montgomery?

Emily Flowers: Well, community theater had been missing in this town for a while! The very idea that one could participate in this art form without making the all or nothing decision to pursue a professional career is thrilling, but we hadn’t had the chance to play in the collaborative, engrossing project of theater here since the mid-90s. You can pursue a painting or writing hobby solo, with little equipment or outside help, but a play requires a stage, director, cast, crew, audience – it’s a team effort. I adore auditions because that scary moment is the moment someone says to themselves: “Y’know, I can do more than my day job. I have more to show the world than what they’ve seen!” I’m so, so happy that we’ve returned this kind of opportunity for creative life to Montgomery. It took several years of hard work on the part of many dedicated people to create the Playhouse, but I think we are all quite proud of what has this has become.

Greg Thornton: Did you envision the Playhouse would be where it is after four years?

Emily Flowers: This place has established itself as a presence in people’s minds and lives with more speed than I ever dreamed it would. We have audience regulars. We have students who return for every class we offer. We have familiar faces onstage and backstage. We’ve produced 37 theatrical productions in only three years and three months! That’s a lot more than anyone – I, for sure – expected out of this relatively young organization.

Greg Thornton: You wear a number of hats at the Playhouse. One of them is being in charge of development. How difficult is fundraising for an arts organization given the present political climate?

Emily Flowers: I have to say ‘bravo’ to our donors for taking the Playhouse from concept to reality during a recession. We opened in 2012 with no debt, and that’s thanks to a big community of people who said “YES” to the idea of community theater in Old Cloverdale. We look to businesses, grant sources, community organizations – anywhere we can, really, to make sure we can grow and follow our mission of providing innovative live theater, and the reception has been positive. Our donors are fans of theater, fans of children’s arts education, fans of this community’s quality of life. We have been truly fortunate.

Greg Thornton: Talk about the volunteer world, if you would. The Playhouse depends in great measure on volunteers. How is that maintained?

Emily Flowers: We thrive on them – we survive because of them – we welcome new volunteers! If you have a skill and want to put it to use, c’mon. If you want to learn a skill, offer to help out on the next show. You don’t need a theater degree to help us build a set! We have a group of about 25 dedicated, regular volunteers, and about 200 have signed up to help out and they chip in throughout the year when they can. Some bring cookies to the opening night reception, some hammer and saw, others sew costumes. We wouldn’t exist without volunteers. Saints, all of them.

Greg Thornton: You live in Cloverdale. Do you feel the Playhouse has an effect on the neighborhood ? What kind of relationship does the Playhouse have with local businesses?

Emily Flowers: Attending a show at the Playhouse, whether a play or our monthly Guitar Pull, is a great part of an evening in Old Cloverdale. A play at 7:30 leaves plenty of time for a bite in advance or a dessert and drink after at some of the excellent restaurants in walking distance. We enjoy being part of this neighborhood. We have received help, support, and encouragement from other Cloverdale businesses from the day we opened.

Greg Thornton: The Playhouse School is an integral part of the theater program. Where do the students come from?

Emily Flowers: These students are terrific kids, and they come from all over this region, from every background! We offer generous financial assistance to make sure any interested student may attend, and the by-product of that accessibility is a diverse classroom mix of enthusiastic young actors and actresses. The Central Alabama Community Foundation and the “Support the Arts” Tag Fund both helped make Financial Assistance available this year, then in March our special event Hey, Old Friend: Sondheim at 85 raised money for ten more students to attend this summer’s workshops! Classes are kept small and they learn so much besides acting: teamwork, creativity, confidence, empathy, literacy skills- it’s amazing what theater does to a brain!

Greg Thornton: You had a longstanding relationship as a dancer with the Alabama Dance Theatre. How has that affected your present position?

Emily Flowers: I often find myself standing in turned-out fourth position. (Ballet humor. Sorry). The Alabama Dance Theatre was, like most ballet schools, a place where a great deal is expected of young people. Classical ballet’s traditions have been handed down from generation to generation. To move up through the company ranks, one has to be a disciplined individual who works well in the ensemble of all ages. It parallels the theater experience our young cast members of The Member of the Wedding are having, working with our adult cast members, learning the etiquette, traditions, and technique of live theater. It’s a team, it’s a home, it’s a shared passion. If I had not grown up at ADT, I would not have understood how important the Playhouse could be to so many people. It’s life-changing to find an artistic family. It’s tremendously fun to see new friendships form during our productions here because I know those bonds are unlike any others.


  • The Member of the Wedding: April 23-May 2. Thursday-Saturday 7:30, Sunday 2:00
  • The Joe Thomas, Jr. Guitar Pull: Tuesday April 28 (Note the date change), 7:00.
  • Auditions for Dinner With Friends: May 6, 6:00. See website for details.
  • Southern Voices: May 9, 7:30.

Greg Thornton is the Artistic Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse.

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