‘That’ New Rochester Theatre Debuts with ‘The Rainmaker’

Cast members, from left, Mitch Gibson, Jacob Dreher, John Shaffer, Tommy Rinkoski, Samantha Gibson and Blake Hogue walk through a scene during a rehearsal for “ The Rainmaker” in THAT Theatre Company’s first production at Rochester Repertory Theatre. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

A new live theater company in Rochester officially launches Aug. 2 with a production of “The Rainmaker.” The new group, That Theatre Company, consists of a small group of actors, directors, and technicians who, for now, will rent performance space at Rochester Repertory Theatre.

“We’re looking at our own space, hopefully, in the future,” said Blake Hogue, one of the organizers of the new company. “We want to go small, maybe a storefront theater with 40 to 50 seats.” Hogue said the intention is to pay theater artists for their talent.

The group, working informally, has already done a couple of original shows in the upstairs black box space at the Rep. For “The Rainmaker,” though, the company is moving to the main stage at the Rep and officially debuting as That Theatre Company.

“We want to bring in more people to see what we do, what we’re about,” said Samantha Gibson, who is directing “The Rainmaker.” “It’s a recognizable show. This is our diving board, and we want to make a bigger splash right off the bat.”

After “The Rainmaker,” she said, they hope audiences will return to see what That Theatre Company can do with upcoming original shows.

“The Rainmaker” is a comedy/drama about a Depression-era farm family. The daughter, Lizzie, who thinks herself too plain, is verging on spinsterhood. Meanwhile, a drought threatens the family’s way of life. Enter Starbuck, an apparent huckster who claims he can make it rain in exchange for $100.

“We’ve compared him to Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man,'” Gibson said. “He stirs up a ruckus, divides the family, but ultimately unites them.”

Hogue will portray Starbuck, while Gibson is Lizzie. Also in the cast are John Shaffer, Tommy Rinkoski, Mitch Gibson, Jake Dreher and Mike Tri. All are local stage veterans. They’re part of a core group that will be involved in the company’s productions.

“There’s a lot of talent, not just performers, but people in light design, set design, all the technical ability,” Hogue said.

For now, That Theatre Company does not have a set schedule. Plays will be produced as space, talent, and scripts become available, Hogue said.

Asked if Rochester needs yet another live theater company, Hogue said, “I think it does. There are others that will do the big budget musicals, the big ticket-setters. What we’re willing to do is smaller-scale productions, more intimate, professional.”

Tom Weber, Post-Bulletin  July 25, 2019






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