Cathy Airhart as she introduces Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at Lea’s of Lecompt.
Courtesy: Cathy Airhart and Photo taken by Anne Nichols Brown

WEST MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) — Cathy Airhart is a local artist who founded CA Studio. The studio is a mobile production company that brings theatre to the audience. Airhart started CA Studio in the early 2000’s because she is passionate about art and entertainment. Over the years she has trained and worked with many people who have left the ArkLaMiss to pursue and attain careers in performance 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 leading roles in a production of Dracula at Weston Community Theatre in Weston, Missouri.

Airhart traveled from Monroe to Weston to watch two of her theatre colleagues perform. While traveling I learned she started her studio at the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum in 2008 out of a need for a mobile production company. Airhart says the museum helped her craft her studio around a need for more access to local theatre.

“They are such wonderful people who actually saw the value of theatre for children. And how theatre could fit into what they are already doing,” says Airhart of the museum directors.

From her humble beginnings in the museum, Airhart worked with and trained several young actors who have loyally worked with her through the past decade. As she grew her studio from the ground up she began to branch out from the museum and began to work with other local businesses like Lea’s of LeCompte and the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens.

CA Studio has continued operating even in the shadows of other local theatre venues, the digital age of streaming entertainment, and the Coronavirus pandemic by taking shows online and outdoors. Airhart has taken great strides to keep her actors and audiences safe while still staying true to her vision of bringing life to theatre.

The talent cultivated from the ArkLaMiss by Airhart was on full display as Laura Elisabeth Ulrich and Charles Pridgen took to the stage in Dracula presented by the Weston Community Theatre.

Ulrich was born in Monroe and was trained by Airhart from the time she was 8-years-old. Ulrich was cast as Renfield and stole the show with her energy and vibrance. When asked why she does it, she explained it was a burning passion to create moments on a stage that transport the audience to another place and 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 compelled to stay in Kansas City, Missouri after obtaining his doctoral degree because of the growth in the arts community. Pridgen played Abraham Van Helsing where he brought a new depth to a man who was desperately searching for answers and a cure for a young girl bitten by Dracula.

The two say they have fond memories of their time working with CA Studio. Many of those memories are regarded as some of their most precious because of 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 in time and space.

When asked what they would say to encourage someone interested in the arts Ulrich said, “Do as much as you can, and don’t ever say ‘no I can’t’. Try it, because you always end up surprising yourself.”

Pridgen chimed in by saying, “Find what you’re really good at, focus on that at first, wether it be as a musician or an actor and then don’t be afraid to take chances.”

After the show, we all sat down together to talk about why live theatre is so important and Airhart said live theatre is just different. It brings people of all walks of life together and puts them as equals.

“I saw a lot of different ages on the stage tonight and some had a long history with performance art and some had a short history. But they all were in there because they have a need to tell a story. And to tell that story in a way that will make people sit still for two hours and watch. That’s odd in itself,” says Airhart.

CA Studio has several productions lined up for the year, one project in the works should open in another four weeks in collaboration with Northeast Louisiana Delta African American Heritage Museum. For more information, or if you are interested in becoming an actor or want to be involved with CA Studio you can connect with them via their website or on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

If you live in the Weston area and you are interested in joining their group you can find them on their website or on their Facebook page.