Preserving the Arts with Stephen R. Rourke

Stephen R. Rourke Interview by Jen Bush

Someone Close To You tells the story of Helen, a fiercely independent woman facing her own mortality and her son Ben who wants to bring her home in her final days.  This reading is being produced by Stephen R. Rourke, a distinguished member of Ken Davenport’s acclaimed TheatreMaker’s group.  He kindly gave us some time to discuss his career and this work.

Mr. Rourke became a producer to bring more new and diverse works to the stage.  “I’ve approached producing from the vantage point of two other professional interests in my life:  acting, and preservation of historic theatres.  Through both, I’ve witnessed and been a part of observing the power of live theatre to transform those who make theatre—actors, writers, directors, designers, and others—as well as members of audiences.  Along with other performing arts, theatre has the power to teach and inspire us as individuals, and to connect us with our communities in ways that provide both economic and cultural benefits.”

“My frustration, however, has been with the lack of new work in so many of our theatres, especially with works from communities whose voices have not been given a real chance to be heard, and in many cases have been actively suppressed.  Turning that trend around, hopefully in a major way, is what I want Flipping The Script Productions to be all about.”

Mr. Rourke has quite a trifecta of inspirations!  “When it comes to theatre, my big three would definitely be Joseph Papp, Harold Prince, and Stephen Sondheim.  All three of them challenged themselves, and the audiences for their shows, to see and hear stories that were unconventional, and often told in unconventional ways.  I would be thrilled to follow in their footsteps to any degree.”

Mr. Rourke’s criteria for what he will produce shows that he has good instincts for quality work and that he cares about the audiences.  “Do I believe in the people in it?  Do I care about what happens to them?  Do their triumphs and tragedies teach us anything?  Do they transform how an audience looks at life? At themselves?  That’s what gets under my skin, and that’s what I hope will get under the skins of those in the audience. I’m not against “having a good time” at the theatre.  But having a good time can mean tears of laughter, or tears of joy.  In the case of “Someone Close To You,” I think audiences will experience both.”

Theatrical producing comes with unique challenges in terms of trying to get everyone involved in the production on the same page.  “More than anything else, it’s getting everyone on your team to share the same vision for the show you’re producing. Theatre is an inherently collaborative medium, and, while it’s important to listen, it’s equally important to make and stick to the right choices once you’ve listened.  I have to say that this show has been a tremendously positive experience on the collaborative side.  Melissa and James have both been wonderful to work with, and I would look forward to doing it again.”

Though Mr. Rourke aspires to produce films, theatre is more in his wheelhouse.  “Long-term, I plan on doing both; I’ve started with theatre because I bring more experience to it.”

After this show, Mr. Rourke has more productions in the works and encourages everyone to check out the Baltimore theatre scene.  “Next will be finding the next “Someone Close To You,” of course!  I’m in touch with a number of playwrights from the Baltimore Playwrights Festival about doing that.  The Festival is a wonderful theatre resource, and I would encourage everyone to check out its website,, and come to Baltimore to see a performance or two.  This is a city with an incredible theatre community, and I hope to be able to make people more aware of what it has to offer.”

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