Mike Thomas, a native of Maysville and production manager of the Washington Opera, will be recognized for his contributions to theater and the arts on July 21 by receiving the SummerFest 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award in Lexington.
Thomas is now entering his 12th season as artistic director of the Maysville Players in historic opera. It produces a season of five shows of productions ranging from musicals to contemporary theater. In addition, he directs and produces a variety of artistic and cultural events throughout the year and in his community.
Throughout his life, Thomas has always had a great passion for the theater, even from an early age.
“My first memory is fourth grade here at what was then Woodleigh Elementary School, and I know that in grade four I adapted, directed and acted in Aesop’s Fables with my fourth grade class,” Thomas said. .
Thomas’ fire for performance and his relationship with the Maysville Players began with a summer production of Cinderella for young people, around 1968, he believes. From that point on, he said there was simply no turning back for him.
“I was bitten by the theater bug, and have been scratching it ever since,” Thomas said.
Much of the appeal of theater to Thomas is the fantastic nature of taking on the role of another person and the worlds they inhabit.
“Just the opportunity to live in another world, to be a different person, I guess the fantasy of it all. It was magical for me, and it’s always magical for me. The sets and the lights and the way you just create this world and invite people to come and watch and live in this world with you.
Thomas has a long career in words, directing and theater. After conducting approximately 300 shows, he also served as the Museum Theater Director at the Thomas C. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort, where he wrote, created, and produced site-specific museum installations and theater elements for galleries and historic sites across the state.
Prior to returning home to Maysville, Thomas was the executive director of the Capitol Arts Alliance in Bowling Green, a community that had previously honored Thomas with the chamber of commerce contributor to the arts award, while he was artistic director of production for the Public Theater of Kentucky. ; a position he acquired through his connections with the faculty at Western Kentucky University, where he studied theater.
“I am fortunate to have been able to make a living as a theater artist in the state of Kentucky,” Thomas said.
While reflecting on his career as a theater artist throughout Kentucky, Thomas couldn’t help but compare his taste to the main character Harold Hill in The man of music, who traveled to small towns, promising locals that he would start a boy band. Thomas noticed the similarities
“It’s a role I’ve always wanted to play since I saw it when I was eight,” he said. “It’s a role I’ve never played on stage, yet it’s the role I’ve played in my life. I’ve made my career in Kentucky going from town to town, high school, elementary school, whatever wants to do anything, and convinced them that yeah, there’s a bunch. If this is my legacy when I go, it is a great legacy to have.
To be recognized and to have received the Lifetime Achievement Award, Thomas said it was a great honor to receive and gives him a great and humbling feeling to be recognized for all the work he has done for his passion. Thomas will receive the award during the SummerFest production of The beauty and the Beast.
“I have been fortunate to be surrounded by extremely creative people who have helped me make the arts beautiful and attractive.