BY LOUIS C. WARD
EUSTIS – The Orlando Times newspaper (TOT) contributing writer Louis C. Ward interviewed Lavarious Slaughter, an actor and playwright, at the theater he recently purchased, and is renovating in the Kurt Avenue Mall in Eustis, Florida.
Lake County hasn’t had Black theatre that produced Black plays for some years, so it is very obvious that Lake County residents, Black and white, are looking forward to the grand opening of Theatre 1901 on September 16, 2023.
Lavarious was asked a series of questions and below are his responses.
TOT: “What made you decide to open a theater in Eustis, Florida?”
Lavarious Slaughter: “After experiencing the Mahalia Jackson musical in a smaller market, I was truly touched by the support and excitement for theater within the smaller communities. Many attendees expressed their longing for similar productions in their own community, which shed a much-deserved spotlight on the Eustis.”
TOT: “What will be the name of the theater?”
Lavarious Slaughter: “Theatre 1901”
TOT: “Will you produce Black plays only? Why?”
Lavarious Slaughter: “Our goal is to prioritize inclusivity and diversity in all our productions, while also staying true to our identity as people of color. As a black man, it comes naturally for me to authentically tell stories that resonate with the black experience. This aspect of our work will always remain unchanged. In addition, we have a strong desire to bring something unique and powerful to an underserved community. We believe in the transformative power of theater and our mission is to ignite the stage with vibrant productions that captivate diverse audiences. We aim to create an inclusive space where individuals from all backgrounds can come together and connect through stories that reflect their own experiences, as well as introduce new perspectives. We will integrate inclusivity and diversity into our productions and will aim to not only provide opportunities for underrepresented communities to see their stories and voices represented on stage but also to foster understanding and appreciation among audiences of all backgrounds. It is our hope that through our work, we can contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society, where diverse stories are celebrated and recognized.”
TOT: “What kind of experience do you have in theater?”
Lavarious Slaughter: “I opened my first show to a sold-out crowd at the Bob Carr Theatre in Orlando, Florida in 2007. Since then, I have produced, written, and directed numerous shows, attracting over 50,000 patrons in the last 16 years.”
TOT: “Will you use professional and non-professional actors from the Lake County Community?”
Lavarious Slaughter: “Absolutely! We are excited to meet the incredible talent here.”
TOT: “What is your opening date?”
Lavarious Slaughter: “Our grand opening celebration will be September 16, 2023 and our season will start this October.”
TOT: “Will your theater provide training for actors, playwriting, or stage production?
Lavarious Slaughter: “Yes, our theater plans to offer training programs and workshops for aspiring actors, playwrights, and those interested in stage production. We believe in fostering creativity and providing educational opportunities for individuals in the community.”
TOT: “Did you encounter any resistance regarding opening a theater in Eustis?”
Lavarious Slaughter: “We have not encountered any significant resistance. The overall response from the community has been positive and supportive.”
TOT: “What kind of theater will it be?
Lavarious Slaughter: “Our theater will encompass a variety of genres and styles, ranging from classical plays to contemporary works. We aim to embrace a diverse range of theatrical experiences that can engage and entertain audiences.”
TOT: “What is the seating capacity of Theatre 1901?”
Lavarious Slaughter: “Our seating capacity will be 452.”
The Orlando Times newspaper thanks you, Lavarious Slaughter, for an informative, heartfelt interview that concerns a Black man who will bring Black theatre and training for acting, playwriting and stage production to our Lake County Community. Regarding the current state of affairs in our state, Black culture expressed through the arts is sorely needed.
We only wished you the best in this endeavor.