Go Towards the Light

Something new is tucked between Goldie’s Restaurant and Athletic Village on Danforth Road. The idea that smoldered for 10 years is now on fire as Darren Park brings live theater back to Edmond. Open the glass door, wander down the well-lit hallway and you will find Lighthouse Theater.

Involved in theater for 25 years, including local commercials, extra bit parts in several movies and over 100 shows, Darren graduated from UCO in 2001 with a degree in Performance Theater.  And it all started because in middle school a pretty girl told him he was funny. “She said I should go out for the drama team, so I did,” Darren says. 

Darren still likes to be funny. The theater is named because it boasts lighthearted plays and caters to its “house” or audience. “We spoil our patrons,” Darren says. “We’re not out to offend anyone. The shows will have some serious points but you will still leave thinking it was a fun time. This theater is something Edmond can be proud of.”

The shows are not considered “family friendly” though. “It’s more for people out on a date,” Darren said. “The shows are about jobs, parenting and relationships so it’s really adult issues, similar to the television show ‘Friends’.”

Darren hopes to make the theater a success by keeping overhead down. He uses local actors, keeps casts small, and utilizes simplistic lighting, costumes, props and sound. “I don’t think the location makes the actor,” Darren says. “A lot of big talent came from here–Miles Aubrey and Kristin Chenoweth, just to name a few.  There is plenty of talent to draw on in Edmond. When people come they’ll be shocked by how good the talent is.”

Darren says it can be hard to open a theater and most are non-profit so they can fundraise, but he wanted more control than that. With the help of investors he was able to open his for-profit theater. “It was important to not lose my experience with this or lose what I’ve put into this,” he says.

Lighthouse Theater also hosts acting classes, which allows the actors to earn more money. “Actors can teach classes during the week when not rehearsing,” says Darren.  “Most theaters have a 4 to 6-week run then shut down, so dead space for six weeks is costly. An acting studio can run four days per week and bring in more money.”

Zoning issues in July slowed down the theater progress. After casting the first play and starting rehearsals Darren learned his location was not actually zoned for a theater. “We thought it would be fine since there is also a dance studio here, but it wasn’t.” Darren says the Edmond Planning and Zoning Commission bent over backwards to help and after Edmond City Council gave unanimous support on July 27, work began again.  “We love the location,” says Darren. “So, we’re really happy this worked out.”

“It’s like our Paradise Island,” Darren’s wife, Sharla, says.  “We would always say, ‘Well when we have our theater…’ and then a couple of months ago Darren just jumped in and did it.” One day Darren hopes to be able to build his dream theater on a 2 to 5 acre lot. “We’ll never be more than 120 seats. We want it to be a small house. Right now we have 80 seats and would love to have a larger stage, but because we are small there are no bad seats in
the house.”

And he’s right. One of the ways Darren saved money is by purchasing seats from expensive cars that will be mounted on boxes. There are seats from Lexus, Mercedes and others. “These seats have the comfort we wanted and a drive-in feel that adds a little kitschyness to the theater,” Darren says. 

The first show, “Billboard”, opens October 2 and will run four weeks. Shows are at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. This comedy tells the story of a recent college graduate, Andy, who gets paid to tattoo a corporate logo on his forehead.

Joshua Buehler, age 23, plays Andy and says he’s excited about performing at Lighthouse Theater.  “Small casts allow each actor to delve into the other actors and build strong relationships,” he says. 

Tiffany Tuggle plays Andy’s girlfriend. “It’s very exciting to be part of the first professional theater in Edmond,” she says. 

A few of the shows Darren has his eye on for the future include “Perfect Wedding,” “Wait Until Dark,” and “Two Across.”

“We want things people haven’t heard of,” says Darren. “Interesting and fun and just as good as the classics but stuff you haven’t seen yet.” You can find more information about Lighthouse Theater and ticket purchases at www.lighthousetheaterok.com

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