For the past 15 years, Bright Star Touring Theatre has performed original shows that entertain and teach.
This year, 2,000 audiences, primarily school groups, libraries and theaters, will see shows with messages that range from anti-bullying to Black History and from holidays to science.
Founder David Ostergaard, a 2017 Biltmore Beacon 40 Under Forty Honoree, started his career as an actor and won an Emmy Award for commercial work. Early on, however, he found the life of an actor was not for him. Instead, he discovered a new passion – writing and producing plays. In 2003 Ostergaard offered his first show to the public, a small touring production of ‘A Dickens Tale.’
Bright Star currently offers 60 different shows. Schools are the primary audiences, but the shows have been performed for adult groups as well. “I want to create stories that play to the height of a child’s intelligence yet are interesting enough for adults to enjoy,” Ostergaard said.
Anti-bullying plays are popular in the fall as students head back to school. Ostergaard’s own high school experience with bullying, while a dark time for him, fueled his compassion for others and led to the growth of shows written to make a difference in students’ lives.
A few years into business, Ostergaard said he visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. He heard stories he had never heard growing up and now shares them on the stage. Bright Star offers several shows with a Black History theme, including ‘Heroes of the Underground Railroad,’ and ‘African Folktales.’ Shows about African Americans in music and sports are also available. Bright Star is the largest provider of Black History shows and anti-bullying assemblies in the country.
Typically, he will visit a venue, like the George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Missouri, research the stories and clothing, and create period costumes for the actors.
Last year, Bright Star won a government contract to perform ‘Lift Every Voice’ in 30 midwest schools. The 1-hour show was created to commemorate the National Park Service Centennial, and it celebrated Black History in America’s Heartland.
As a traveling theater company, logistics are a major challenge. Bright Star’s offices are located in south Asheville. Currently, five 2-person acting teams are driving Bright Star minivans upwards of 1,000 miles a week to performances from New Jersey to Texas. Since the majority of bookings are schools, budgets can change suddenly as they have recently in Kentucky. Ostergaard was just told of a budget freeze and all performances are on hold.
Bright Star has grown large enough that Ostergaard has moved away from the day-to-day management. He now focuses on major decisions like overall programming and expansion into additional countries. Four tours are coming up in Germany next month, for example. Bright Star has performed in Russia, and several other European countries, and recently received requests from Bahrain, Spain, Greece and Italy.
Ostergaard said he has plans to expand even further, with children’s TV on the horizon. He has produced bi-lingual shows already and is looking into a sign-language show.
His favorite part of the work at Bright Star Touring Theatre remains the weekly letters coming in from children and teachers, thanking him for bringing a Black History show or an anti-bullying message to their school.
Bright Star Touring Theatre performs for groups of all sizes and welcomes the opportunity to bring its shows to local audiences. More information is available at brightstartheatre.com.