A passion for Topeka

Sarah Madl

Shannon Reilly, artistic director for the Topeka Civic Theatre and Academy, is passionate about Topeka.

“Of all the places I have lived, Topeka is the best,” said Reilly. “There’s an extraordinary variety of things to do in this city and it’s a great place to live and raise a family. Topeka is rich in the arts and the things you would find if you would take the time to look. People in Lawrence are hard on Topeka. It’s like the ugly cousin nobody wants at the reunion.”

Reilly believes that the remedy is simply getting out and taking advantage of what Topeka has to offer. He advises that if a college student here likes to see shows at the theater, volunteering is a great solution. You can see the show for free, work a little while and meet new people in the process. You never know what will happen when you get out and become invested in what’s going on in your community.

“If you want to volunteer just call the theatre and we’ll find you something to do that suits your talents,” said Reilly. “Volunteering is the best addiction ever because it’s a huge family and it continues to grow. It’s easy to get into our volunteer program but it is also the hardest thing to leave. We offer acting classes for all different levels and really we will teach you what you need to know so you can do your job.”

Reilly can relate to that, when he was working in Kansas City in the early nineties he got a call to guest direct a show at the Topeka Civic Theatre. He took it on a whim and with the intent of using the pay from this job to take care of some bills. The thing about Topeka that he noticed in auditions for the show was the incredible talent he found here. He hasn’t found that anywhere else and keep in mind these people are not professionals, but from the community. About a year after his first show, Reilly got a call asking if he wanted to move to Topeka and work for the theatre. He took the offer and the rest is history.

The talent here in Topeka and his love for the theater, keeps Reilly coming back for more.

“Theater is all of the arts rolled into one,” said Reilly. “It’s the first form of communication, and it never fails to leave a mark. The right show has the power to leave a mark on your soul for better or worse. Even if the show you saw was horrible you will remember that show and the reason you didn’t like it.”

In his years living in Topeka, Reilly has noticed that people here want to know what they are going there to see. They will choose a movie based on title alone but wouldn’t dare choose a play based on title alone. Reilly believes that one must experience all the different kinds of theatre to figure out which one is right for you. He has also noticed that it’s easy for us to knock on the door of where you live but it’s harder to get out and experience something outside of what you know.