The Actor’s Preparatory Exchange is pushing Tyler’s theatre scene into areas that other productions companies wouldn’t have dared to delve into just a few years ago.

With shows like Equus, Rent, Nevermore and the upcoming Venus and Fur, East Texans are seeing a whole new type of performances. TJC theatre students have been integral to bringing these visions to life in each of these performances,

“(TJC has) a great talent pool that I never was aware existed in Tyler when I was with the Tyler civic theatre. When we did rent … we had a big turnout from TJC,” said Chris Abraham, co-founder of the APEX theatre and veteran screen and stage performer.

Before moving back to Texas, Abraham was an active actor and producer in California from 1986-2001. Unable to find work in the Arts, Abraham began a new career with the booming oil and gas industry.

After moving back to Tyler he became involved with the Tyler Civic Theatre in 2007, where he met Felicity Enas.

“I first met felicity at the Tyler Civic Theatre when she was the creative director there. She is a product of the British theatre of the 1970s. She’s great with nonconformist places, minimal spaces,” said Abraham.

Enas and Abraham co-founded the APEX Theatre 20 in 2012 to bring their unique take on acting to East Texas theatre enthusiasts. Since the theatre’s inception they’ve found a niche performing plays that many in the area would deem too controversial.

This niche seems to be a huge draw for TJC students looking for acting lessons and experience that will push them and their skills in new and unique ways.

“The thing that I learned when I left TJC, when I left Tyler, is that smaller brings out more intimate things,” said returning student Josh Carpenter. Carpenter was very successful in Los Angeles as an actor, his IMDB page boasting a wide variety of credits with the most recent being “The Blind Artist”. “The Blind Artist” is a short film directed by TJC’s Assistant Director of the Center for Earth and Space Science Education, Justin Parish. The short was selected for Best of the Fest and won Best Comedy at the 2013 Downtown Tyler Film Festival.

Carpenter, an education major, just wrapped up his directorial debut with Matt Ritchey’s “Nevermore”. “Nevermore” is an amalgamation of some of Edgar Allen Poe’s most enduring works transplanted into his life.

In addition to the performance, Carpenter has brought in local artists’ work to display in the lobby and even managed to surprise audiences with live performances of the play’s music by composer Lacie Carpenter.

The APEX Theatre wants to create more than just a performance-based relationship with TJC students, they aim to bring in artists and musicians as well. The Theatre is providing bold new opportunities for those willing to put in the effort.

Deshawn Weston, a sophomore theatre major, calls working with APEX on “Rent” one of the best experiences he has had since moving to Tyler. Hannah Johnson, a Journalism and Theatre double major played the role of Mimi in both runs of the play.

Perhaps the apex of the casts’ professionalism and cohesiveness came during the last showing of Rent when the fog machines set off the Liberty Theatre’s fire alarms. After the theatre’s alarms shut down all systems and the patrons safely found their way outside, the cast gathered together and picked up exactly where they left off on the sidewalks of downtown.

The Actor’s Preparatory Exchange is located at 20 Potter Place at the rear entrance to the Energy Building, just off of Front Street. For more information call (903) 740-5387 or email info@apextheatre20.com

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