Theatre with a twist

Profile | Jessica Pell Tate

By Josie Parker

Ending a year full of canceled events and disappointments, the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma found a new way of telling stories on stage through an immersive outdoor show. Replacing the stage with an evening stroll through Harn Homestead, a 10-acre living history museum in central Oklahoma City, this 75-minute, outdoor production created a more “COVID friendly” telling of the classic, “A Christmas Carol.” Led by guides, the audience walked from scene to scene following the actors and the action. 

Jessica Pell Tate (’95) played a role in this production as the ghost of Christmas past as well as a solicitor. Tate said, “Combining unbelievable talent, passionate determination and a supportive community of sponsors, the production team was able to pull off what was impossible in so many other regions of the world this year. The fringe benefits of having to make so many adjustments was an experience that pulled the audience into the story in a way that can’t be accomplished within four walls of a theater. Add a cast and crew humbled by knowing so many artists who are out of work and grateful for the opportunity to tell an important story, and you find yourself in the middle of an experience that feels like you will never be the same after having been a part of it.”

Tate has played many roles — some on Harding’s stage — including Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl “ in 1993. Tate said, “The opportunities and the direction I received on the Harding stage taught me to cherish the people all around me as we get to create art together. You won’t sound good if someone doesn’t blow a pitch for you backstage before you enter for an a cappella intro. You won’t look good if someone isn’t willing to help you with nearly impossible costume changes. And you won’t feel good if you miss out on building relationships with the unique family that is created with each and every show. Cherish each other, and let the art speak for itself.”

For Tate, the last several years have been filled with raising her family, teaching music and performing on stage every chance she could. She and her husband, Tony (’94), and her sons, Jackson and Deacon, made the move to Oklahoma nine years ago. This afforded Tate more opportunities to work on stage and in film. Tate says these opportunities have always been met with overwhelming support and encouragement from all three of the men in her life. 

With shows and audiences decreasing in number, it’s not getting any easier in show business. Tate hopes to encourage and provide an example of using your talents for good and to the glory of God. As an elementary music teacher, she hopes to grow creators, patrons and supporters of the arts. As a performer, she hopes to continue to tell stories that enlighten, inspire and transform the hearts of those who witness it. “COVID has slowed everything down, if not brought it to a grinding halt. My hope is that we will all recognize the power and value of the arts as a tool for helping us weather the challenges this life brings.”          

Categories: Alumni Profiles.

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