Friday, March 4, 2005

Core Fool earns kudos

R.L. Rowsey is named Chamber 'Arts Advocate of Year'

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By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

Eighth in series of 9

Named Arts Advocate of the Year by the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, R.L. Rowsey is the epitome of a multi-threat. He is a Company of Fools core company artist and the company's managing director; artistic director of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony Music Conservatory; music director at the Light on the Mountain Spiritual Center, and assistant conductor and accompanist for Caritas Chorale.

It's enough to make anyone else's head spin. But not Rowsey, who with his inimitable energy has become an integral part of the valley's arts community over the past five years while still keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

It's no wonder he was nominated for one of the Chamber's annual Community Awards. To know Rowsey is to love him. There are two enormous factors that support this kind of rampant affection for the man. First, he is an accomplished pianist, musical arranger and performer who lends his talent tirelessly to a myriad of causes.

"I haven't yet learned the word...no," he said with a laugh.

The other reason is his incredible humility and humor. Originally from Richmond, Va., Rowsey has been part of the performing arts world for over two decades. His frantic life as a musical director and conductor with national touring companies of Broadway plays was fulfilling, but Rowsey is more content in a small town where he makes a difference in people's lives.

"It was an honor to find that I was listed as an arts advocate. It made me stop. But I do talk about why arts are essential and not a luxury. And then when I looked at who got this award before me, on the list was Kathy Wygle. If you find yourself on a path Kathy Wygle has walked, then you're on the right path. The work she did allows all of us (in theater) to do what we do."

Also a humble being, Wygle, the artistic director of Laughing Stock Theatre Company, Camp Little Laugh, Sun Valley Shakespeare Festival and the manager of nexStage Theatre, won the award in 2001.

"I think what I am is a facilitator. I make the playground safe for others by moving the building blocks out of the way. In a way, it's getting easier (because of an increase in the talent pool and local support for the arts) but there's more responsibility in a way. My fear is we stop taking chances."

Somehow it's hard to imagine that happening.

Since moving to Hailey, he's seen the arts culture in the valley "change, dramatically, musically and choreographically," he said.

Rowsey hopes to see more collaboration between arts organizations in the future.

"A lot (of collaboration) now is behind the scenes," he said. "The arts are growing. It's a small town but the sources are not unlimited."

In February, he was the musical director and accompanist for a Footlight Dance Centre performance at the Community Campus.

"There are so many more people to reach. Our goal is to put people in their seats. They come, spend money and go out to dinner and go shop and they go home and tell their friends.

"My hope for the future is we will address how to make it more accessible to even more people for all the cultural events. There are lots of options. We need to get the word out that theater is accessible not just financially but for those busy moms and for people who aren't sure they can relate to the theater and who maybe don't know if it's for them."

And that is the gist of choosing Rowsey as the year's Arts Advocate. He is for you.

Make dinner reservations

The 8th Annual Community Awards Night will be held at the River Run Lodge, Friday, March 18. Social hour is at 7 p.m. and dinner and the awards ceremony begins at 8 p.m. Valley entertainer Chris Millspaugh will perform "The Way I See It" after the awards ceremony. Tickets are $45 per person. For reservations contact Angela Shetler at 725-2103 or e-mail ashetler@visitsunvalley.com.




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