A! Magazine for the Arts

Austin Bailey

Austin Bailey

Austin Bailey teaches children to love the theater

January 28, 2023

Austin Bailey’s education and career were influenced by his parents’ efforts to settle him down.

“I was a rowdy kid with boundless energy and a penchant for being loud and annoying. In an effort to focus these chaotic forces, my parents enrolled me in a children’s theater from a very young age. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with it, so much so that I remained in children’s theater and performed in church plays all the way to adulthood. While in children’s theater, I had the incredible opportunity to work in several areas of production including sound and lighting design, scenic design and construction, props, stage management and even playwriting and directing. These experiences in my youth certainly helped temper my wild behavior and let me focus my energy on projects that I was passionate about, such as my first Christian play‘A Gift that Lasts’and my skit book‘Dimwitz’ Witty Skits: 25 Comedy Sketches for Youth Theatre.’

“I continued studying theater at Virginia Highlands Community College and then King University, where I graduated from last May. I began Chronicles Children’s Theatre with my wife shortly after we got married, and we taught a couple of summer drama camps. Presently, I’m grateful to be the children’s theater director at LampLight Theatre, where I get to write and direct shows for our new children’s theater program,” Austin says.

Austin has performed many characters at many theater camps, churches, Stebens Children’s Theatre, Virginia Highlands Community College, King University and most recently LampLight Theatre, Kingsport, Tennessee in “Foggy Valley: Wild Wild Wacky West.”He is writing an original play for this spring’s children’s theater production.

“There’s something about setting yourself aside and becoming someone else for a couple of hours that is so beautiful and cathartic for me. That ephemeral moment of being so engrossed in the character and the reality of the play to where nothing else matters or exists is like nothing else. Theater is beautiful in that it is a collaborative art form where people of various backgrounds, skills and beliefs can come together to create something greater than any individual could’ve done on their own. It isn’t just entertainment; it is a means of communicating big ideas while inviting the audience and actors alike to escape from reality for a few moments to share a story. The experience itself may be temporary, but its impact carries on. On a more personal level, however, I’ve seen first-hand how it can change lives and give confidence to those who are uncertain or hesitant. Theater is a powerful tool for personal growth, and for giving a voice to the meek,” he says.

Originally, Austin only wanted to act, but as he has grown, he prefers the more technical parts of theater. He particularly enjoys directing children’s theater passing along the inspiration that he received from children’s theater when he was young.

“So many people inspired me and helped shape me into the artist I am now. The Barter Players, whose shows I have watched since I was a child. Tom Ballmer, my director and mentor at Stebens Children’s Theatre. Christina Alaska Reece Vance and Christopher Slaughter, my theater professors from King University. My incredible wife Alaura, who is also a very talented performer, teacher and artist. I’m also inspired by those particular artists in history that chose not to be pinned down to just one thing but chose to learn and innovate in all sorts of areas.

“My favorite role I think would have to be Captain Black Stache in‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’ I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun playing a role as I had then. My favorite play is one I’ve directed recently‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.’ A local playwright who inspires me is Catherine Bush, the resident playwright at Barter Theatre, whose many children’s theater plays and adaptations entertained and influenced me as a child,” he says.

He plans to continue to write and direct children’s theater and inspire young minds to seek their own passions.

Austin grew up in Morristown, Tennessee, and spent his teenage years in Mason City, Iowa. He recently graduated from King University, Bristol, Tennessee, with his Bachelor of Arts in theater. His is the son of Terry and Greg Bailey.