Elyria native Rachael Endrizzi knew she was going to co-found a new theater company somewhere, but Lorain County wasn’t initially on her list of locations.
“Our co-founder Claire Simpson and myself were looking for a place to open a theater for young audiences for a while,” said Endrizzi, a 2002 Elyria High School graduate. “We were looking at Chapel Hill in North Carolina and things just weren’t really fitting. Then my dad mentioned that Elyria specifically was looking to revitalize and reinvest.
“So we sent out emails and basically the mayor’s office in Elyria was the first to get back to us. So we met and talked about how there was a need for the arts in the elementary schools and more opportunities for families and kids. I was excited to back in my hometown.”
Fast-forward a year and Endrizzi is in the process of getting the Spark Theatre Company off the ground with Simpson, who works remotely from North Carolina.
“The city of Elyria is thrilled to have Spark Theater join our growing arts community,” Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said. “This new arts initiative provides our children with healthy and safe alternative activities, a creative outlet to explore Elyria and the world, and a path to build lasting relationships with other youth and caring adults.”
Endrizzi’s return to Lorain County took a circuitous route. After spending two years attending Lorain County Community College, she left Ohio for New York City where she attended American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
Upon graduation, the thespian and acting teacher lived in South Florida and Atlanta before she decided to pursue something bigger.
“I’ve been working in children’s theater and teaching pretty much since I got out of college, in addition to acting and directing,” said Endrizzi, who recently directed a Lorain County Community College production of “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.”
Still, Endrizzi’s focus is on Spark Theatre Company, which she eventually hopes will provide Lorain County with public performances, educational field trips and touring theater productions targeting underserved schools and communities.
Also, in terms of arts education, the company will offer children’s classes, camps and theater opportunities.
“Our mission is to inspire kids to create their own stories onstage and off,” Endrizzi said.
Over the next few weeks, Spark Theatre Company’s is about to make its community outreach debut with its inaugural touring assembly program “New Kid.” Targeting kindergarteners to fifth-graders, the play is about a young boy from an imaginary country who moves to the United States with his family.
During the course of the hourlong performance themes such as bullying, tolerance, immigration, friendship, English as a second language and inclusion are explored.
“We’ve got performances at about 20 different schools in Lorain County,” Endrizzi said. “We’ve been rehearsing at the South Rec in Elyria. Something else we started is acting classes at Keystone Elementary. We hope to add more locations next year.
“Also, we’ve partnered with Elyria Parks and Rec Department for summer camp to teach drama workshops.”