Interview: Chatting With Cora Hemphill & Tim Arts of Firebox Theatre Company

Get to know the one of the latest professional theatres in the Triangle area.

By: Dec. 02, 2022
Interview: Chatting With Cora Hemphill & Tim Arts of Firebox Theatre Company

One of the newer theatre companies in the Triangle Area is Firebox Theatre Company. It's located in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I had the great pleasure of interviewing both of the founders, Cora Hemphill & Tim Artz, about all of this and more.

To start things off, would you mind telling us about Firebox Theatre Company?

CH: It's a new company we started this past summer. I think Tim and I have known each other for maybe six months. We met at a wonderful meeting where we realized we have some of the same goals. So we really wanted to create a space for professional theater in Wake Forest. Our main thing is sharing meaningful stories for the community while developing a culture of professional artists in our town.

How was it created?

CH: We were able to meet each other through our local arts council. We were both looking for artists to connect with and make something happen. So through Arts Wake Forest, we met. We started talking about what it would look like to put together a production in Wake Forest. Met some wonderful people like Bob and Elizabeth Johnson. They were very generous through the Graham Johnson Cultural Arts Endowment to allow us to use this wonderful space in downtown Wake Forest above The Cotton Company. So we decided that the best way for us to show people what we wanna do is to do it. Then we decided to mount a production, to produce it ourselves, and get the work out there. That was the best way to communicate what we wanted to do.

What is your mission with Firebox Theatre Company?

CH: I think it just boils down to great stories and great acting. That's what we want to take center stage. While we seek to tell those stories, we want to give artists a place to work. We're very passionate about paying our artists stipend, valuing their time, and treating it as a professional environment. Then in addition to wanting to be a professional theater and grow that culture, we're excited also about branching out and doing some education and community outreach. I have done a lot of that in my past. I was on staff at Unity Theater in Brenham, Texas as education development and outreach manager. I also got to work as an actor there as well, but I saw how much a professional theater can also enrich the community in so many other ways. So we're excited to put on great shows and then we're also excited to bring some of that richness that comes with theater to the community around us.

How are things going so far?

TA: They're going great. I can't speak for Cora, but I think our first show exceeded just about every expectation I had. Not only from a producing standpoint, but from an artistic standpoint as well. Not only did the show do great, but I think the response and what it's leading to as well. So I am very excited about the future of Firebox Theatre Company.

Looking ahead, what productions do you have coming up?

CH: Well, we are in the planning stages of our first season. What we wanted to do was to get the work out there and just see, "Do we have a home? Do we have a place to perform? Are there people that wanna see this?" Thankfully we were very grateful that we discovered there are. So now we're in the process of planning our first season, which is really exciting. We have a home, which is also really exciting. We will be at 306 South White Street, upstairs above The Cotton Company. It's a lovely space because I think it's an old cotton mill kind of building. I think it's the holdings building. I'd have to look it up and send you the specifics to be sure, but it's a historic building in Wake Forest right next to the railroad tracks. It definitely helped inspire our name "Firebox," which is the place where fuel was burned in a steam engine. The space itself is very intimate, we have a small audience size, and so the audience is pretty much among the theater. It's a really unique place and we're really excited to be able to take some shows that are just right for that location.

TA: What we'll be doing on December 16th, we've set aside what we call a launching party. That is when we will make public the shows we have chosen for the upcoming season.

Going back to the beginning, how did each of you first get started in the theatre?

CH: I was a very shy kid and I think my parents were trying to help me with that, which I'm thankful for. I think they put me in the theater thinking "Maybe this will help our shy girl." So when they put me in classes, they could see me just unlock and felt very at home being these characters. I'm thankful my parents caught that in me early. I'm also thankful they continued to encourage it and helped support me when I got my degree in theater performance from Greensboro College. Then I did a lot of my professional work in Houston, Texas. They have an amazing theater scene there. So I lived there for about seven years and relocated back here over the pandemic. So I'm super excited to bring some of the things I've learned along the way back to back to Wake Forest.

TA: I got into it later in life. I never participated when I was in high school growing up or anything. I was in the service for a while and when I came off of my duty, I went to a community college and I thought I'd try my luck at an acting class. I was really bad at it because much like Cora, I was very nervous. I was kind of a shy person. Then after I started doing it a bit, I got a little less nervous. Then some of the upperclassmen and the teacher said, "Hey, they're doing some local auditions for colleges. You should shy out." So I did, and I got accepted into a couple, I chose one, and that was it. I kind of knew right then and there what I wanted to do. So that's what I've been doing ever since.

For those who'd like to have a career in the theatre, where do you think would be a good place to start?

TA: You gotta get trained. You have to take classes and learn your craft really well. As far as specifics go, it just depends on where you are and if you wanna pursue it seriously. If you wanna go to college for it or go to a good studio or something, it just really depends. The bottom line is you have to study and know your craft. You have to work really hard at what you're doing, whatever it is. Whether you choose music or you choose theater or you choose musical theatre, whatever it is. The key is knowing your craft. Then as long as you really have the heart for it, you really want to do this as a career, then you have to be able to just have to believe in yourself. Acting is what I know. I can't speak for all the other artists. If you audition 20 times and you get two roles, you're doing really well. You just have to believe in yourself. Although believing in yourself starts with the fact that you've done the work, you've worked hard, you train yourself, and you've learned your craft. So you feel confident in your skills, your tools, and so on. Then the choices are a little bit more open to you.

I thank the two of you very much for devoting your time to this interview. It was great getting to talk to both of you.

CH: Great talking to you too. We appreciate it.

TA: Yeah. This is great!

For more information regarding Firebox Theatre Company, please visit:


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