SOONER THEATRE MISSION STATEMENT
The mission of The Sooner Theatre is to change lives, offer diverse perspectives and create a cultural connection to the community through the performing arts and arts education.
The History of The Sooner Theatre
The Sooner Theatre opened her doors for the first time in 1929 as the first movie theatre in the region built to show talking pictures. Local architect Harold Gimeno spared no expense while building the Spanish Gothic Style building, spending over $200,000. For nearly 50 years, The Sooner Theatre served as the most popular movie theatre in the area until the mid-1970s when multiplexes gained popularity and the single screened Sooner could no longer keep up with the demand. In 1975, the Sooner Theatre closed and stayed dark - nearly lost to the wrecking ball - until 1979 when a dedicated group of citizens refused to lose the theater, and appealed to the City of Norman under the aegis of the non-profit organization The Sooner Theatre of Norman, Inc. The City agreed to purchase the theatre and lease her to the organization. After the first phase of restoration, The Sooner Theatre opened her doors again in 1982 as a community performing arts center.
For nearly two decades the theatre stayed open with an annual concert series, an annual follies, but was primarily a rental venue. In 2002, however, The Sooner Theatre board of directors had a bolder vision for the theatre. The board decided the theatre should have a busy event calendar and become a weekend destination for people in and outside of Norman. This vision began taking shape in early 2003 when a new executive director, invigorated by an enthusiastic board of directors, raised the bar and implemented new year-round programming. Full seasons of both concerts and live theatrical presentations followed, and for the last 10 years, The Sooner Theatre has been delighting audiences from around the region on a consistent basis.
Today, The Sooner Theatre offers Main Event Concerts, the Sooner Stage Presents community theatre theatrical season, year-round classes, camps and full productions for students in the Studio of The Sooner Theatre in an additional location, rental venue options for community events, and participates in multiple outreach performances at events and festivals throughout the region, all while preserving the historic character of the theatre. Each year, the theatre produces three musical theatre productions in the Sooner Stage Presents season that enlist dozens of cast members from diverse backgrounds and experience levels and draw audiences of all ages; major concerts with the Main Event Concert Series, which reach audiences from in and around Norman bringing in popular well-established performers as well as burgeoning new talent; more than 55 year-round classes and at The Studio of The Sooner Theatre provide performing arts education to hundreds of children in grades PreK-12. In addition, we have a Studio series which features five full-scale youth productions. The theatre’s community involvement benefits dozens of other non-profit organizations with free tickets and volunteer assistance. In addition to being a vital venue for the performing arts, the theatre is listed on both the State and National Registry of Historic Places.
At The Sooner Theatre we host professional artists, including members of Actors Equity Association, to first-timers and foster performers from three years old and up. Our presentations reflect our mission, our image and ultimately they determine our survival. We embrace the fact that we are not a “Community Theatre” but “Theatre for the Community”. The Sooner Theatre has volunteered time and talent to produce the Norman United Way’s annual Celebrity Sing event at Riverwind Casino, provides entertainment at Norman Chamber of Commerce events, including their annual banquet, works closely with the Norman community to produce our annual Christmas parade and much more. Sooner Theatre staff members hold positions on committees and boards including the Norman Arts Council’s Arts Roundtable, The Norman Chamber of Commerce, The United Way Campaign Cabinet and many more.
Sooner Theatre Staff
BRANDON ADAMS (House Operations Manager) returns to the Sooner Theatre after 2 years living in Chicago with his wife, MacKay. Previously, Brandon served as Artistic Director and Production Manager here at the Sooner and is excited to dive into this new position. A native Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Brandon was raised in a theatre family. He began performing at a very early age, ever grateful to have been bitten by the theatre bug. He has performed in and directed many productions throughout the region, including performing in Germany in the Poteet Theatre’s award-winning production of John and Jen and performed on the open seas as the principal vocalist for Holland America Line. A firm believer in the transformative power of theatre, he looks forward to sharing his talents and passions with those both on and off of the Sooner stage.
JENNIFER HEAVNER BAKER (Executive Director) was born and raised in Norman... a true Norman girl! She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Oklahoma. Before taking the position at The Sooner Theatre, she lived in NYC and traveled as a professional actress and choreographer working in numerous productions across country. She thought she was through with the “performing” chapter of her life, until she found herself on stage again, right here at The Sooner Theatre as Rita LaPorta in Lucky Stiff, Nancy in Oliver, Ms. Darbus in Disney’s High School Musical and to celebrate her 10 Year Anniversary here at The Sooner Theatre, she played Miss Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! What a hoot! Other favorite roles include Carlotta in Phantom, Charlotte in Moon Over Buffalo, and Miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Other favorite performing credits include, an NBC Movie of the Week, several feature and indie films, a performer in the Reader’s Digest’s DVD, America, Portrait of Song, a soloist for The National Governor’s Convention, a brief stay as the lead female in a popular Branson show, and a guest performer in President Clinton’s Inaugural Parade. Favorite “blasts from her past” include seasons at Music Theatre of Wichita, Lyric Theatre of OKC, Mill Mt Theatre, Buck’s County Playhouse, Pocono Playhouse and 7 years as Laurey in Discoveryland’s production of Oklahoma! Jennifer has also appeared in numerous commercials and videos, including Wendy’s, Mazzio’s, Rural Telephone, WIC, Deaconess Hospital and over 30 car commercials in OK, TX and PA. She has choreographed commercials for the Oklahoma Lottery, Riverwind, and Taco Mayo. Additional choreography jobs include Six Flags Parks, Premier Parks, Discoveryland, Bear Creek Farms, and the Oklahoma Dome Dedication. She has directed and choreographed numerous musicals and live events across the country and has choreographed nearly 100 musicals for various theatres, high schools and colleges. In addition to her position at The Sooner Theatre and starting The Studio of The Sooner Theatre, she directs the United Way’s Celebrity Sing, and in 2007 directed Norman’s event to celebrate Oklahoma’s Centennial, “The Centennial Follies with Larry Gatlin”. She serves and has served on several Norman boards and committees to include: United Way’s Cabinet, Transition House’s June Bug Jam, Norman Public School’s Gifted Council, Citizen’s Advisory Board, The Mayor’s Centennial Committee, Norman Roundtable, and The Main Street Christmas Parade. She is a member of Norman Rotary and a past Board Member for The Norman Chamber of Commerce. Jennifer is married to Jay Baker and they have two daughters, Addison and Aubrey Jane.
NANCY COGGINS, APR (PR & Development Director) loves talking about The Sooner Theatre with donors, foundations, businesses and individuals who believe in the quality of life performing arts brings to this community. Nancy graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BA in Journalism. She is an award-winning Marketing and Communications expert with more than 25 years’ experience, specializing in Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising of tourism and cultural products to local, regional, national and international audiences. Coggins has promoted some of the state’s largest tourism attractions including The Harn Homestead & 1889er Museum, the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and Science Museum Oklahoma, directing all marketing and public relations activities. Nancy worked with local, regional, national and international media to facilitate interviews with topic experts and has represented tourism entities as spokesperson for the media. Nancy is a 2011 Leadership Norman graduate, the 2008 recipient of the Paul E. Dannelly Harmony Award for Outstanding Public Relations Practitioner from the PRSA-OKC Chapter and is one of OKC Business’ 2005 Forty under 40. She has served on the board of directors for PRSA-OKC, the Association of Women in Communications and JAYMAC, the Alumni Association of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Oklahoma. She lives in Norman with her amazing husband and two beautiful daughters.
DARRELL FERGUSON (Construction Manager) recently joined the staff of The Sooner Theatre after being roped into every kind of technical volunteer position the theatre could get him to agree to do. He brings an extensive knowledge of construction, electrical, plumbing, cattle wrangling and much more to the staff, in addition to being a voice of reason among the highly creative team. Darrell lives in Lindsey with his two princesses, wife Christine and daughter Hannah. And lots of cattle. And a few other critters.
NICKI KRAISKY (Business Manager) joined the staff as Business Manager in 2008, but she was not new to the Sooner Theatre. She served as a Sooner board member from 2006 -2008. Originally from a suburb of Chicago, she attended the University of Oklahoma and received a degree in Fine Arts. After graduating, she worked in education, retail, and has over twenty-five years of accounting experience at a local CPA firm. The position of Business Manager is a perfect blend for Nicki. She gets to use her accounting skills in order to help the Sooner Theatre, but in conjunction with a very creative atmosphere with some amazingly talented people. She and her husband Ken live in Norman.
ANTHONY WILKINSON (Production Manager) is excited to be officially coming aboard to the Sooner Theatre team as the theatre’s Production Manager. Anthony Wilkinson is a theatrical designer, prop master, painter, and producer. He is also the founder of the Urban Production Collective which has focused on producing local plays, films, and podcast by artists from our community. He would like to thank his parents and the staff of the Sooner Theatre for their constant care and support.
TISH WILLIS (Studio Director) has a Bachelors Degree in Vocal Performance/Pedagogy and Choral Education from Eastern New Mexico University and a Master’s degree in Musical Theatre from Oklahoma City University. Tish taught private voice at Stagestruck Studio in Oklahoma City for thirteen years, taught in the public school system for 15 years and is currently a member of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Pops Chorale. In her spare time, Tish serves as an adjunct Voice Professor at The University of Central Oklahoma. She lives in Norman with her husband Greg and teenagers Connor and Sutton. She is thrilled to be a part of the family of The Sooner Theatre and is excited for a fantastic upcoming year!
Board of DirectorsExecutive Committee
Meg Newville (President)
Lindsay Hawkins (Vice-President)
Matt Robinson (Treasurer)
Beth Muckala (Secretary)
Vicki Worster (Past President)
Board of Directors
Dr. Amanda Ward is a born and raised Oklahoman. She grew up in Moore, OK before attending Oklahoma State University, where she graduated in 2003 with her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. She then went on to the University of Oklahoma, where she received her Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2007. Amanda completed her specialty training in Pediatric Dentistry at The University of Tennessee College of Dentistry in Memphis, TN in 2009. She is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. She provides dental care to children in and around the Norman community through her practice at Norman Pediatric Dentistry. In addition to her passion for pediatric dentistry, Amanda enjoys running with her husband Brad, cooking and reading. She loves spending time with her husband and their two adorable young daughters.