By Celeste Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
This article reprinted with permission from the Echo Press. For more news about upcoming productions, visit echopress.com
ALEXANDRIA — Christine Reilly grew up going to shows at the Andria Theatre. She vividly remembers when her father, Bruce Pohlig, was in the production of “Music Man.”
“I remember where I was sitting,” said Reilly, who lives in Alexandria. “I have such fond memories of attending shows at the theater. I have such a love and appreciation for the theater and I value the history of the organization.”
Reilly, who also has been involved as a choreographer of numerous shows, was recently named Andria Theatre’s new executive director.
She took over on April 1 for Ann Hermes who retired from that position. Hermes had been the director since 2017, taking over for Ben Klipfel.
It was Hermes who first gave Reilly her gig as a choreographer. Reilly said that Hermes was directing a show and had another choreographer but that it wasn’t going that well. Hermes received Reilly’s phone number from Reilly’s sister-in-law who was in the show and then Hermes gave her a call, asking her if she would be interested in doing the choreography.
Reilly has an extensive background in dance as she was not only a dancer herself, but she coached high school dance for 22 years – in Alexandria (15 years) and Anoka (seven years).
“I am grateful Ann gave me a chance,” she said, noting that since that time, she has averaged doing choreography for about one show each season. “I have always had a fascination with movement and visual arts.”
When Reilly learned that Hermes was leaving the Andria Theatre, she decided to throw her hat into the ring for the position. But not because she was actively looking for a new job. Reilly said she was very happy in her position as the executive director of the Alexandria Education Foundation, which supports Alexandria Public Schools.
“It was a very tough decision for me,” she said. “But I was interested.”
Reilly said once she was hired at the Andria, she was thankful to both the Education Foundation Board and the Alexandria Area Arts Association Board, which operates the Andria Theatre, for providing her the flexibility with both positions.
She said she didn’t want to just give a two-week notice at the college and leave them in a bind, so she was grateful to Hermes for being so flexible in her departure date.
“Everything worked out really nicely,” she said.
As Reilly gets settled into her new position, she reflects back on the history of the theatre and knows that it has not always been an easy road. Because of her predecessors, the theater is in a good position right now, she said.
“Where we are at today, I can’t take credit for, but I am excited to be here,” said Reilly. “I plan to move the organization forward and am grateful for the strong foundation that has been built before me.”
She also said that there have been some really successful shows, thanks to the theater’s artistic director, Dave Christman.
“Dave does a great job of picking shows,” said Reilly. “There’s a lot that goes into it like picking shows that provide good entertainment and making sure there is a good variety. But we are also so blessed because this community supports the theater. The people are willing to buy tickets because there is a trust in us that the shows will be good.”
As she looks ahead, Reilly said she knows there is a strong history, which she loves and values immensely, but sometimes, things can’t always stay the same and change is good, she said.
The theater has to grow, she added.
By enhancing the theater, Reilly believes it also enhances the downtown area and adds value to it for not only the residents but also all the visitors to this area.
“I would like to make some improvements, but keep our rich history,” she said. “Change can be good.”
Change might be adding acting classes, she said, noting that nothing has been set in stone yet, but talks have been started.
ACTING CLASSES, ANYONE?
Reilly said she wants the theater to continue to grow and continue to open its doors to anyone and everyone. She has heard that there are people who would love to participate in a production, but don’t necessarily know where to start. This is where the acting classes would be beneficial, she said.
“We are a community theater and we want to invite people to come and be involved,” she said. “There are so many opportunities. Maybe people like to build and building sets could be a fun project. There are hair and make-up opportunities and we are always looking for and need people who like to sew.”
There are some other bigger projects in the works, too, and lots of ideas, but those are the items Reilly said she is working on for now.
“So far, I really love it here. I love the people and I love working with Dave and Donna (the box office manager),” said Reilly. “It’s been fun to be in the lobby after a show and it will be fun getting to know all the people. The theater is who I am and it’s what I love. Myself, my parents (Bruce and Kathleen Pohlig), and my family, we are all big patrons of the Andria Theatre.”
Reilly and her husband, Shawn, have three children together – Emma, 21; Colin, 18; and Olivia, 15.