WEST MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) — Cathy Airhart is a local artist who founded CA Studio. The studio is a mobile production company that brings theater to the public. Airhart started CA Studio in the early 2000s because she is passionate about art and entertainment. Over the years, she has trained and worked with many people who left the ArkLaMiss to pursue and achieve careers in the performing arts in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Weston, Missouri. Two Monroe natives who have worked with CA Studio since its inception were recently cast as lead roles in a production of Dracula at the Weston Community Theater in Weston, Missouri.
Airhart traveled from Monroe to Weston to watch two of his theater colleagues perform. While traveling, I learned that she opened her studio at the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum in 2008 out of need for a mobile production company. Airhart says the museum helped her create her studio around a need for access to local theater.
“They are such wonderful people who have truly understood the value of theater for children. And how the theater could fit in with what they already do,” says Airhart of the museum directors.
From her humble beginnings at the museum, Airhart has worked with and trained several young actors who have worked with her loyally over the past decade. As she grew her studio from the ground up, she began branching out from the museum and began working with other local businesses like Lea’s of LeCompte and the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens.
CA Studio has continued to operate even in the shadow of other local theater venues, in the digital age of streaming entertainment and the coronavirus pandemic delivering shows online and off. Airhart has made great strides in ensuring the safety of its cast and audience while remaining true to its vision of bringing theater to life.
The talent cultivated from the ArkLaMiss by Airhart was on full display as Laura Elisabeth Ulrich and Charles Pridgen took the stage in Dracula presented by the Weston Community Theatre.
Ulrich was born in Monroe and trained by Airhart from the age of 8. Ulrich was cast as Renfield and stole the show with his energy and drive. When asked why she does this, she explained that it was a burning passion to create moments on stage that transport the audience to another place and another time.
Pridgen was born in Ruston and grew up in West Monroe. He spent many years working with the Strauss Young Troupe with Airhart and says he was forced to stay in Kansas City, Missouri after earning his doctorate due to the growth of the arts community. Pridgen played Abraham Van Helsing where he brought new depth to a man desperately searching for answers and a cure for a young girl bitten by Dracula.
Both say they have fond memories of working with CA Studio. Many of these keepsakes are considered some of the most treasured due to their passion for creating art. They tell me that CA Studio gives them the chance to grow as artists and embrace a skill that has the power to transport people through time and space.
When asked what they would say to encourage someone interested in the arts, Ulrich replied, “Do everything you can and never say ‘no, I can’t.’ Give it a try, because you always end up surprising yourself.
Pridgen chimed in, saying, “Find what you’re really good at, focus on that first, whether as a musician or an actor, and then don’t be afraid to take risks.”
After the show, we all sat down together to talk about why live theater is so important and Airhart said live theater was just different. It brings together people from all walks of life and puts them on an equal footing.
“I saw a lot of different ages on stage tonight and some had a long history with performance art and some had a short history. But they were all there because they needed to tell a story. And to tell this story in a way that will make people sit for two hours and watch. That’s weird in itself,” Airhart says.
CA Studio has several productions planned for the year, an ongoing project scheduled to open in four weeks in collaboration with the Northeast Louisiana Delta African American Heritage Museum. For more information, or if you are interested in becoming an actor or want to get involved with CA Studio, you can connect with them through their website or on their Facebook and Instagram pages.
If you live in the Weston area and are interested in joining their group, you can find them on their website or Facebook page.