By Leslie D. Rose
When Texas-born, Pennsylvania reared gymnast Justin Rayna finished his music composition degree at the University of Tennessee, he moved to Baton Rouge in 2012, in pursuit of an acting career in its budding Hollywood-esque scene. When he got here, he said he noticed a high level of unoriginality and a low rate of art being produced in the Capital City, as compared to larger metropolitan cities like Chicago and New York.
So Rayna put together a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign with the hope of producing an original production, Legend City – The Musical. If funded, the money would cover the Independence Park Theatre rental for auditions, rehearsals and performances, including lighting and sound equipment.
So far the campaign has had 17 backers pledge just a little over $1000. The project will only be funded if at least $25,000 is pledged by May 30, 12:21 p.m.
“If God wants it to happen, he can find it in the couch,” Rayna said. “We will find another way to fund it if Kickstarter doesn’t work. We’ll do what has to be done.”
Legend City – The Musical, Rayna’s first play, was originally the idea that he wanted to use as his composition final presentation in college. It is a combination of acrobatics, gymnastics and music all written and directed by Rayna.
“It’s a show about learning to be whole on your own,” Rayna said.
The story follows two young musical artists, Chance and Grace, as they journey to find the balance between loving each other and chasing their dreams. While looking to fulfill deep desires in their lives, they are each faced with interferences, temptations and sometimes-misguided advice. For Chance, it’s a race to realize that his music dreams are trumped by a greater desire to be loved, but he must first understand that using love as a bandage doesn’t heal the wounds beneath.
Rayna said the musical almost speaks to his goal to improve the Baton Rouge arts scene.
“I notice Baton Rouge has a fair arts culture, partially because it’s so close to New Orleans, but I don’t feel like it’s big enough,” Rayna said. “Maybe I don’t feel like it’s original enough. So we want to make it bigger and that’s kind of the message behind Legend City – anything is possible. We just want to inspire Baton Rouge as a whole.”
By way of theatre companies, Baton Rouge has two very active community theatres, Theatre Baton Rouge and New Venture Theatre, both of whom produce seasons of about seven to 10 plays each. Rayna credits New Venture Theatre Founding Artistic Director Greg Williams, Jr. with a level of originality, but said that most other groups, colleges and local theatres aren’t doing the arts scene justice in the city. It’s why he said his musical will be so important to Baton Rouge.
As far as a target audience, Rayna said he is unsure who would make up his audience but that he has plans to run Legend City – The Musical for three weekends.
“A 12-show run in a 780 seat theatre, obviously we would love to fill it up every night and I think we have a fairly good chance at doing that, at least several of the nights,” he said.
As the funding is not yet complete, Rayna has no set idea on when the production would run.
For more information, www.LegendCityTheMusical.com.