At the crossroads of identity, where a caterpillar once inched along, a colorful show of stamina has taken place. And that archetypal butterfly is alive in the life and art of Nichole Garrison.
The Sedona-based theatre aficionado is bringing her multi-faceted philosophy out of the incubation stage in a transformative new way with Take Flight Repertory Theatre.
This brand new endeavor opens with the world premiere of Diana Small’s “Good Day” with actors from northern Arizona and Los Angeles at Relics Restaurant and Roadhouse in Sedona. Performances are Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets and learn more through 928-203-7928 or TakeFlightTheatre.com.
When her mother passed away, Garrison placed a butterfly on the hospice room door — what she pinned as her life’s most powerful moment.
“I knew putting that butterfly on that door that it was time for the next part of my life,” she said.
Afterward, she and her family left their Florida home, and the theatre education company Garrison worked for, to grieve among the red rocks. That visit morphed into a brand new start when they purchased Oak Creek’s Butterfly Inn and named it in honor of her mother.
Four years later, Take Flight stands as the next phase of Garrison’s journey — one that amasses loss, light and love into a catalyst to move forward.
“I always learned if you set the standard high you can achieve anything. My mother modeled that,” Garrison explained, noting her theatre colleagues’ agreement. “I grew up believing I could make anything happen … I’m still a dreamer that way.”
At the ground level, Garrison envisions Take Flight as a single space where creatives from all walks of life come together to share their multimedia artforms.
“I believe if you have a forum, a playground for people to be safe and make magic together, it’s just unbelievable what can happen,” she added. “There’s really nothing like that in Sedona yet.”
The self-fulfilling prophecy of “if you build it, they will come” is what inspires the educator, actress and playwright, and what will cull the talent to sustain the high bar Take Flight sets. The future of Take Flight, Garrison visualizes, will have the cornerstone of education spark a conservatory-type studio where actors of all ages build a comprehensive, sophisticated skill set.
“The right artists are going to find their way to me, or I’m going to find my way to them. I believe that,” she added.
Acknowledging the level of faith to put into an entity with a blurred and multi-faceted future, Garrison noted her past has offered a supportive network to call on including “Good Day” star Lindsey Gentile, who left her L.A. home for two months to support this endeavor.
“I have a lot of people like that, thank God, in my life who I’ve given a lot to and give back to me in so many ways,” Garrison said. “I really just have so much trust and faith.”
She added, “My vision isn’t going to come to fruition today. It can’t, but I know exactly what point B is. I’m at point A now, and I just have to take slow steps to get there.”
The first step, Garrison said, was to send Take Flight into orbit with its first production. She landed on Small’s “Good Day,” a reference from a former student, for its command of entrenched emotion offset by heart and humor in a crisp, balanced work.
Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy grad Abby Harvey, stars as Toby. Theatrikos star Jim Dugan is Isaac the exterminator while Kevin MacDormott tackles his first role as Chris. And with a minimalist set and raised seating, even Relics’ owners were impressed to see what the players had done with the dinner theatre space.
“This play is about how we get through the day — some days we fly and some days we crash, but we muster up the courage to get through it,” Garrison explained.
Next will see a collaboration with Kate Hawkes of Red Earth Theatre and Mary Guaraldi of Canyon Moon Theatre Company — a November night of strong female directors and companies that show the community theatre’s cooperative potential.
Garrison noted, too, that the events leading to opening night support — even without funding or a permanent theatre space yet — Take Flight’s bright future built on trust and care from the greater theatre community.
“Because this play has so much heart,” she added, “it’s such a reminder to me…that you can push through whatever’s stopping you.”