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Art People: Kim Overtree, Kevin Tracy |founders Ghost Light Theater

  • Kimberly Overtree and Kevin Tracy pose for a portrait at her apartment on July 18, 2013. The two started a theater company together, and their most recent production was "The Woman in Black."<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Kimberly Overtree and Kevin Tracy pose for a portrait at her apartment on July 18, 2013. The two started a theater company together, and their most recent production was "The Woman in Black."
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kimberly Overtree and Kevin Tracy pose for a portrait at her apartment on July 18, 2013. The two started a theater company together, and their most recent production was "The Woman in Black."<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Kimberly Overtree and Kevin Tracy pose for a portrait at her apartment on July 18, 2013. The two started a theater company together, and their most recent production was "The Woman in Black."
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kimberly Overtree and Kevin Tracy pose for a portrait at her apartment on July 18, 2013. The two started a theater company together, and their most recent production was "The Woman in Black."<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Kimberly Overtree and Kevin Tracy pose for a portrait at her apartment on July 18, 2013. The two started a theater company together, and their most recent production was "The Woman in Black."
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kimberly Overtree and Kevin Tracy pose for a portrait at her apartment on July 18, 2013. The two started a theater company together, and their most recent production was "The Woman in Black."<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Kimberly Overtree and Kevin Tracy pose for a portrait at her apartment on July 18, 2013. The two started a theater company together, and their most recent production was "The Woman in Black."<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Kimberly Overtree and Kevin Tracy pose for a portrait at her apartment on July 18, 2013. The two started a theater company together, and their most recent production was "The Woman in Black."<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

Kim Overtree and Kevin Tracy are of a single mind when it comes to producing community theater.

“We view it as true art,” Overtree said in an interview last week at her Northampton home. “It comes from the same place that other people find their flow activity — something that when you start doing it, you forget to eat that day because you are so ensconced in it and it’s such a big part or your creative outlet. We see the creative side of it very strongly. Which puts us on the same page in a lot of ways.”

Overtree and Tracy are the cofounders of Ghost Light Theater, based in Northampton. The company recently produced its first play, “The Woman in Black” by Stephen Mallatrat, at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. After completing that first endeavor less than a week ago, they agree, also, that the benefits of participating in community theater far outweigh any downside — like working 24/7, for free, for weeks on end, to produce a show on a shoestring budget (that’s a generous characterization of their funding, they say), and then performing for a weekend or two before kissing the whole thing goodbye and going back to their day jobs.

Their goal, they say in their mission statement, is “To bring quality community-based theater to fruition, producing works that entertain and challenge both audience members and participants.”

The two say they are up against more than fiduciary constraints; they’re also combating negative impressions about community theater — that, quite frankly, it’s just not very good. Part of their mission, they say, is to prove just how wrong those naysayers are.

“It only takes one or two bad shows that someone sees as community theater to say, ‘I’m done with this,’ ” Tracy said. “We want to raise the bar, and by raising the bar, we’re not suggesting that any of the other groups we work with are not doing great jobs.”

“Maybe raising the bar isn’t the best way to put it,” Overtree offered. “It’s more like raising awareness of what can be. All of us in the community theater realm know, but I think the audience doesn’t know as well.”

Overtree and Tracy, who also lives in Northampton, say they were motivated to create their own troupe, both by their love of community theater, and by how good they know it can be. Tracy, 38, a firefighter and paramedic, and Overtree, 36, a high school math teacher, have a combined 15 years of experience with local community theater groups, including the Ja’duke Center for Performing Arts in Turners Falls and Arena Civic Theater in Greenfield, among others.

“A lot of people think of community theater as a dead art, or a dying art, and we don’t think it’s true,” Tracy said. “We want to put on some really good shows that show people that it’s not dead, it’s not dying.”

Overtree says her slant on things is even a bit more urgent: “We need this. Our community needs this. It’s a way of showing empathy. It’s a way of understanding other human beings. A way of building confidence in other human beings. Taking pride in your community,” she said. “There are so many benefits — both for the audience and for the performers. If we allow it to be a dying art, then it will die. I won’t let it.”

— Kathleen Mellen

For more information about Ghost Light Theater, visit www.ghostlightmass.org.

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