Mike Thomas, Maysville native and producing director of the Washington Opera House, will be awarded for his contributions to theatre and the arts July 21 by receiving the 2018 SummerFest Lifetime Achievement Award in Lexington.
Thomas is now entering his 12th season as artistic director for the Maysville Players in the historic opera house. He produces a five show season of productions ranging from musicals to contemporary theatre. Additionally he staffs and produces a variety of arts and cultural events throughout the year and across his community.
Throughout his entire life, Thomas always had a tremendous passion for theatre, even at an early age.
“My earliest memory is fourth grade here at what was then Woodleigh Elementary, and I know that in the fourth grade I adapted, directed and starred in Aesop’s Fables with my fourth grade class,” Thomas said.
Thomas’s fire for performance and his relationship with the Maysville Players began with a summer youth production of Cinderella, around 1968, he believes. From that point on, he said there was simply no turning back for him.
“I was bit by the theater bug, and I’ve been scratching it ever since,” Thomas said.
Much of the allure for theatre for Thomas is the fantastical nature of taking up the role of another person and the worlds they inhabit.
“Just the opportunity to live in another world, to be another person, I guess the fantasy of all of that. It was magic to me, and it’s still magic to me. The sets and lights and how you just create this world, and invite people to come and watch and live in that world with you.”
Thomas has an extensive career with words, directing, and theatre. Having directed around 300 shows, he’s also been Museum Theater Director for the Thomas C. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort, where he wrote, created and produced museum installations and site-specific theatre components for galleries and historic sites across the state.
Before returning home to Maysville, Thomas was the executive director of the Capitol Arts Alliance in Bowling Green, a community that had earlier honored Thomas with the chamber of commerce contributor to the arts award, while he served as producing artistic director for Public Theater of Kentucky; a position he acquired through his faculty connections at Western Kentucky University, where he studied theater.
“I am fortunate that I have been able to make my living as a theatre artist in the state of Kentucky,” Thomas said.
While reflecting upon his career as a theater artist throughout Kentucky, Thomas couldn’t help but liken his like to the lead character Harold Hill in The Music Man, who travelled to small towns, promising the residents he’d create a boys band. Thomas remarked the similarities
“That’s a role I’ve always wanted to play ever since I saw it when I was eight,” he said. “It’s a role I’ve never gotten to play on stage, yet is the role I’ve played in my life. I have made my career in Kentucky by going from town to town, to high schools, to elementary schools, to whatever wants to do something, and convinced them that yes, there is a band. If that is my legacy when I leave, that’s a great legacy to have.”
Being recognized and given the Lifetime Achievement award, Thomas said is a great honor to receive and gives him a great and humbling feeling to be recognized for all the work he has done for his passion. Thomas will receive the award during SummerFest’s production of Beauty and the Beast.
“I’ve been very blessed to be surrounded by extremely creative people who have helped me make the arts look great and appealing.”