Lo­cal cou­ple ful­fills goal of open­ing the­ater in Cov­ing­ton

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­

Shante Ra­gin first caught the act­ing bug when she was just 8 years old at a sum­mer drama camp. Now, she and her hus­band Kevin have de­cided to share their pas­sion by open­ing the Dra­matic Arts Pro­duc­tions The­ater in Cov­ing­ton, of­fer­ing not only act­ing classes, but also first-rate pro­duc­tions, like the one cur­rently play­ing, the Charles Dick­ens clas­sic, “A Christ­mas Carol.”

“We de­cided to open the the­ater in Cov­ing­ton be­cause af­ter work­ing with the New­ton County School Sys­tem, we saw a need to bring af­ford­able act­ing classes and stage plays to Cov­ing­ton,” said Ra­gin. “This is the rea­son why our act­ing classes are only $20 and tick­ets to our shows are only $10.”

“Pa­trons have come in dur­ing the day to tell us they love the idea that we are here be­cause there is noth­ing like us around,” Ra­gin said. “There are no act­ing schools here where stu­dents can come in and learn pub­lic speak­ing, how to ap­proach peo­ple, how to make a pre­sen­ta­tion as well as the ‘Art of The­atre.’ When I worked as a drama in­struc­tor for New­ton County Schools, par­ents would al­ways ask me how their chil­dren could take my classes if they were not in the New­ton County af­ter-school pro­gram. Those ques­tions helped my hus­band and I un­der­stand the need for a the­ater in Cov­ing­ton was big­ger than we ex­pected. There were also times we strug­gled to get dates at New­ton High School to per­form shows for even the New­ton County stu­dents we were teach­ing,

so we un­der­stood there needed to be an­other stage avail­able for com­mu­nity pro­duc­tions.”

Af­ter sev­eral years pro­duc­ing shows and act­ing them­selves, the cou­ple opened the doors of DAP (in Mor­gan Plaza on Pace Street) in Au­gust, just tak­ing in stu­dents who wanted act­ing classes. And although they may have just opened their doors in Cov­ing­ton, the com­pany has been go­ing strong for the last five years when they be­gan the com­pany in or­der to present “The Wizard of Oz” at the So­cial Cir­cle The­ater. Ra­gin cast mem­bers of the homeschool drama class she worked with at the time for the per­for­mance of the clas­sic L. Frank Baum story. Along with Shante and Kevin, the cou­ple’s three daugh­ters also work in the com­pany, 14-year- olds Marshonna and Jada and 10-year-old Mian­gel.

The space may be a bit smaller than what the Ra­gins are used to work­ing with, but it doesn’t bother them in the least.

“Af­ter work­ing in large spa­ces such as The Rialto The­ater in At­lanta, The So­cial Cir­cle The­ater, The Porter San­ford The­ater and New­ton High Au­di­to­rium, we find our cozy space a breath of fresh air. It is cozy and fam­ily friendly,” said Ra­gin. “It gives us a phys­i­cal chance to reach peo­ple with­out hav­ing them feel like the ac­tors are un­touch­able or the place is too big and in­tim­i­dat­ing for stu­dents to learn. Our act­ing stu­dents feel com­fort­able here… in­stead of the black box, we call our­selves the tan box.

“Our the­ater seats 110 peo­ple but we want peo­ple to be com­fort­able so we will, in most cases, not al­low more than 80 peo­ple in at a time. (In or­der to ready the space, we had to open a wall to ac­com­mo­date the stage we had to build). This is just the be­gin­ning be­cause in the fu­ture we are look­ing to el­e­vate our seat­ing and make a few other ad­just­ments in­clud­ing en­larg­ing our stage.”

Since its in­cep­tion, the cou­ple has pro­duced more than 30 shows, in­clud­ing two sold-out per­for­mances of a play writ­ten by the Ra­gins, “False Prof­its: God Don’t Like Ugly” at the Rialto The­ater in At­lanta. They also pro­duced “Punked, Con­fes­sions of a Bully,” which was shown in New­ton County Schools.

The Ra­gins make sure that ev­ery pro­duc­tion they do, they are choos­ing one with a les­son for the view­ers. Whether it be the story of a lit­tle girl who re­al­ized she had ev­ery­thing she needed right at her feet in “The Wizard of Oz,” or their cur­rent pro­duc­tion of “A Christ­mas Carol,” a story of re­demp­tion.

“We’re never just do- ing a show,” said Ra­gin. “There’s some­thing be­hind ev­ery show we do. There is al­ways a mes­sage to be found… Art brings peo­ple to­gether. The mis­sion state­ment of our the­ater is to bring the com­mu­nity and fam­i­lies to­gether. We feel like it is work­ing…we have had as many as nine mem­bers of one fam­ily come to see ‘A Christ­mas Carol’ be­cause the pric­ing is af­ford­able and our the­ater is close.”

An­other mes­sage the cou­ple hopes to share, that a qual­ity pro­duc­tion doesn’t have to cost a for­tune. Ticket prices start at $10 for “A Christ­mas Carol,” which will be shown Dec. 15 and 22 at 6 p.m. They can be or­dered at dra­mati­cart­spro­duc­

The the­ater also of­fers Satur­day morn­ing act­ing classes for chil­dren third grade and up and classes for adults as well. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit the DAP The­ater web­site or call (678) 658-8415.

Dar­rell Everidge /The Cov­ing­ton News

Shante and Kevin Ra­gin’s the­ater is cur­rently play­ing the hol­i­day clas­sic, Charles Dick­ens’ “A Christ­mas Carol.”

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