To professionally produce live theatre performances for Oklahoma City audiences that explore issues relevant to our community, generate opportunities for creative expression for historically excluded groups, and engage the audience with intellectual and emotional experiences that inspire positive social change.
Oklahoma City Theatre Company recognizes that the quality of life in our city will improve as opportunities for adult residents to attend high-quality, socially relevant theatre increase. Our company produces theatre by collaboration between Oklahoma City artists with diverse identities who share the vision of an OKC arts community able to sustain a workforce of individual artists and of our theatre company whose work will educate through delight, bring artists and audiences into meaningful dialogue, and promote inclusion and progress as ideals for our community.
Oklahoma City Theatre Company values the living connection between art and the community it reflects and informs. We value the vision and ideas of artists whose work offers perspective on our pressing social issues. We value the potential of art to change individual minds, hearts, and actions.
The story of our company begins with the vision of Founding Artistic Director Richard Nelson. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, Rickey earned his master’s degree in acting from the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver and studied Shakespeare at the British-American Drama Academy at Oxford. After working professionally in national tours, in Denver, and New York City for more than a decade, Nelson returned to Oklahoma City and recognized the need for a theatre company that valued diversity and created a safe space for people to come together and grow as artists. He collaborated with friends to produce Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Myriad Gardens Waterstage in 1999 and this marked the formation of Synchronicity Theatre Company with Nelson as Artistic Director. In his program note for STC’s second production, Hamlet 2000, Nelson reflected: “Synchronicity Theatre Company is an idea born of desperation…by a group of disparate artists searching for that place where we belong. For some of us, it is the theatre, for others, it is simply each other…what we all hope to do, is simply tell good stories.”
Synchronicity eventually found a home in Studio 207, a modest modified warehouse at 7210 Broadway Avenue in Oklahoma City that could accommodate small audiences. Our friends will remember some of the challenges of the Broadway location, but we all look back on that time with warm memories. Our distinctive spirit of innovation, inclusion, and community – ideals that are still foundations of our company today – was developed and nurtured at Studio 207. Audiences came to 7210 Broadway to see performances of Stop Kiss, The Blue Room, and Equus along with many other successful performances that were targeted for adults and challenged OKC theatregoers with new forms and ideas.
In 2001, Synchronicity was invited to perform in the newly renovated Civic Center Music Hall, and for a few seasons, the company produced shows in both that location and at the Broadway space. In 2002, out of a desire to identify more closely with the community (and eliminate confusion over the pronunciation of our name), Synchronicity became Oklahoma City Theatre Company. The following season, Studio 207 was closed, and until recently the company remained one of two “resident” theatre companies at the Civic Center, performing shows in both the City Space Theatre and the Freede Little Theatre.
During our 11th season, OKC Theatre Company began the Native American New Play Festival, with inspiration and support from Rickey’s colleagues in New York. Original work from Native writers across the nation and Canada were submitted, and three were chosen and presented as staged readings for the public in the summer of 2010. Nelson wrote: “…We are now embarking on a new and exciting journey, and we take great pride in inviting you to come along…The Native American New Play Festival reflects our desire to highlight the rich tradition of story-telling in the Native American culture and to celebrate this through the art of theatre.”
In Season 13, Nelson stepped down to pursue his career with Rose State College. Company member, Rachel Irick, a graduate of Oklahoma City University with a Master of Fine Arts in theatre from the University of Oklahoma, was appointed Artistic Director and Deborah Draheim-Deppe as Managing Director. Together, they grew the Native American Play Festival and brought a passion for theatre that embraced under-represented communities and helped to define the mission of the company in its second decade. Under her leadership, the company produced works that created conversation (and controversy) about pressing social issues, including The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, which met with rave reviews and unprecedented public argument. “As theater artists, if we’re not reacting to the emotional landscape and to the literary landscape of our own community, then we’re irrelevant. We have to stay relevant to what people are thinking and talking about,” Irick said in an interview with the Oklahoman published in July 2014. Draheim-Deppe resigned her position as Managing Director in 2014 and Irick resigned her position as Artistic Director in 2016, but they leave our company with a distinctive and important mission and direction that will be continued and expanded by our new staff.
Now entering its 18th season, Oklahoma City Theatre Company is positioned as the only company in the OKC metro with the mission to serve historically under-represented communities and promote theatre as a vehicle for social change. The company’s coming season, supported in part by a grant from the Oklahoma Arts Council, includes original works by Oklahoma Native American and African American playwrights, partnerships with community groups, and opportunities for adult audiences to experience theatre that opens conversations about gender identity, domestic and systemic violence, the AIDS epidemic and its aftermath, and race riots as history and metaphor in Oklahoma.