A Closer Look at the Roy Cockrum Foundation's $1.2 Give to Actors Theatre of Louisville

The Jackson Browne song "The Load-Out" is, to our ears, one of the most insidiously schmaltzy and objectively bad musical compositions ever committed to tape. But, as an homage to Browne's roadies and fans, it speaks to the critical role these folks play in the entertainment world and, more specifically, Browne's financial liquidity.

We couldn't help but think of this song upon reading news that the Roy Cockrum Foundation awarded $1.2 million to fund the Actors Theatre of Louisville's Apprentice/Intern Company. After all, behind every production is a cadre of production assistants, lighting people, and make-up artists who make the production hum. Actors, producers, and directors get most of the love. But the Actors Theatre is doing something unique. Its immersive apprenticeship program is creating a deep bench of next-generation theatre professionals by exposing them to a valuable combination of performance, training, observation, and networking.

The award supports grants over the next ten years for each apprentice and intern during the nine-month program and provides year-round employment for the program's leadership.

Now entering its 44th year, the Apprentice/Intern Company is one of the nation's foremost training programs. Each year, Actors Theatre auditions and interviews more than 2,000 artists, artisans and administrators, selecting approximately 20 performers and 20 interns for a spot in the highly coveted program at the Tony Award-winning theatre and home of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Designed to serve as a bridge between undergraduate study and a professional career, members of the company receive world-class training from some of the most accomplished theatre professionals in the country.

What's more, the company attracted the attention of the foundation the old fashioned way—the personal touch. "I know the long and distinguished history of the Apprentice/Intern Company, but I recently had the opportunity to experience their work first-hand during this spring's Humana Festival," said Roy Cockrum himself. "It was a terrific display of professional training at the highest level and, under the skilled supervision of Michael Legg, these young artists demonstrated the high standards expected in the Festival."

Yes, that's the same Roy Cockrum who recently won the lottery and started his own foundation "dedicated to helping nonprofit theaters 'reach beyond their normal scope of activities and undertake ambitious and creative productions.'"

The foundation, which considers grants by invitation only, has awarded three gifts thus far. The other two include one to Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company to provide support for the world premiere of Tracy Lett's Mary Page Marlowe and to the Goodman Theatre in support of Robert Falls' and Seth Bockley's world premiere stage adaptation of Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño's 2666.

While the first two grants went toward the production of specific works, the foundation's support of Actors Theatre falls into the traditional "operational support" bucket, signifying a subtle but not inconsequential shift.