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Drama in the 'Burbs
By Mark E. Johnson
Kim Furlow isn’t one to sit idly by.
She was a sidekick for the popular Steve and DC morning radio show during its heydays in the ’90s. She’s sung on air with John (Cougar) Mellencamp, as well as Brad Delp, the late lead singer for the rock group Boston, and Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac. She met Harry Connick Jr. and almost fainted. “He’s flat out gorgeous,” she confided. She’s worked in corporate public relations and had a stint with her own freelance PR business. She’s acted and sung in local productions for more than 28 years. And now this Fontbonne alumna has embarked on perhaps her greatest challenge yet — launching her own theatre company targeting the heretofore untested west St. Louis County market.
Furlow, who graduated in 1986 with a communication arts degree that included an emphasis in broadcast news and a minor in theatre performance, debuted Dramatic License Productions last August with a production of the highly acclaimed play “Doubt: A Parable,” which, of course, was also adapted for the big screen and starred Meryl Streep.
The play, in which Furlow conjured Sister Aloysius (Streep’s role), received good reviews and gave promise to the fledgling theatre company. Though the inaugural production was held in the city at Kranzberg Arts Center on Grand Boulevard, Furlow has been hard at work readying the company’s West County home — former retail space in Chesterfield Mall. It’s a “Field of Dreams” strategy: build it and they will come.
“We think there’s an excellent untapped audience in West County,” Furlow, 45, said. “We’ve talked to plenty of people who live out here in Ballwin, Manchester, Wildwood and other municipalities who are enthusiastic about attending a quality theatre production that’s close to home.”
Home to Furlow is Ballwin where she lives with her daughter, 10, and husband. She’s also a stepmom to five, ranging in age from 13 to 29.
“I’m not good at sitting still for long,” Furlow explained when asked how she juggles her time. “Running a company, acting and managing family life is definitely a challenge, but it’s also extremely energizing. It also doesn’t hurt that I have a superbly understanding husband who’s also passionate about great theatre.”
So, does she ever miss those crazy days of radio or the relative order of corporate life?
“Radio was great because I could write and perform character voices,” said Furlow, whose more memorable alter egos included Consuela Gonzalez, the Spanish “Tart Reporter,” a Latin fireball perhaps best likened to a female Ricky Ricardo, or Doris Morgan from Florissant (pronounced “Daris Margan from Flarissant”), a playful jab at an exaggerated St. Louis persona.
“Working in PR for almost 10 years had its ups and downs,” she added.
“I enjoyed calling on all my old media buddies that I knew from my radio days. Those relationships helped in getting publicity for my clients. But it can be frustrating, too. You put a lot of work in, and with the media you don’t always have control over what happens or the end result.”
Ultimately, Furlow said, she started longing for something more. “I recalled an old friend’s advice: ‘Do what you love and you’ll love what you do.’ That led to the natural progression of venturing into the theatre business.”
Furlow expects to produce two to three main stage or cabaret style productions annually. The company will also offer children’s drama camps.
“It’s important to engage children in the theatre arts at a young age, especially when these programs are often not offered in school or are the first to be cut when budgets are tight,” she said. “Our programs will help boost self-esteem, promote personal growth and promote teamwork and creative listening skills.”
Modified “mini” camps will also be offered on-site for youth-oriented non-profit organizations that don’t have the means to transport kids to the Chesterfield location.
Youngsters and theatre patrons won’t be the only ones benefiting from the new Dramatic License Productions. Fontbonne students and alums figure to play prominent roles.
“Maybe I’m biased, but you can’t beat the expertise of Fontbonne students,” Furlow said playfully. “Fontbonne has an amazing performing arts program and its own theatre company in residence (Mustard Seed Theatre). Students there learn all aspects of theatre production and that’s key. I think the faculty and administrators, in general, were, and are, very thorough in helping students, including me, prepare for the real world.”
The question is, “Is West County prepared for Kim Furlow and Dramatic License Productions?” The curtain’s about to part, and smart money says, “Yes!”