The Penfold Theatre Company | Austin, Texas

Penfold Theatre

Nathan Jerkins (‘05), Sean Martin (‘03) 
and Ryan Crowder (‘04)

ACU alumni trio Nathan Jerkins, Sean Martin and Ryan Crowder have made a big splash in the Austin arts scene this year. As the Penfold Theatre Company, they've sold out shows, piqued the interest of the rapidly growing Austin suburb of Round Rock and swept the Austin Critics Circle Awards. This year they received awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and their show, Jon and Jen, captured the award for Best Musical.

In every title that we choose, in every choice that we make, we're trying to connect to an audience and not just put on a play. Yes, we have quality standards, but it's about telling stories that inspire and impact people. - Sean Martin

The timing of Penfold Theatre could not have been better. The year before they began this company, an arts council was formed and a professional symphony came to the Round Rock area. So by the time they got there, a foundation for the arts had already been created.

Perfect timing

"It was great because there's already a stream going that way, and we've stepped into that stream," said Sean. "Round Rock is really well positioned, because it's a city in its own right, but it's also at the intersection of several other growing suburbs." The population of Round Rock combined with surrounding suburbs is nearing 400,000 people.

The city council of Round Rock came to see Penfold's second show, The Last Five Years. "Then they called us up, took us to lunch and basically sat us down and said,  “You’re good. We want you in our town. What can we do?” " said Ryan.

ACU has been a huge part of this company already, and these guys have no intention of changing that. If anything, they would love for ACU students and alumni to be more involved in their productions. Two of their board members are ACU alumni, and they enjoy working with people from ACU.

"We realized that the work ethic that we had and the reason we had such a passion and drive to do this was because we learned it at ACU," said Ryan. "And so that is the reason we've used ACU alums in shows, and they've been a part of our board, and we've brought them in to direct, and we're bringing them in again."

In fact, Adam Hester, professor and chair of the ACU Theatre Department, plans to direct a show for Penfold in the future.

Internships for ACU students

Penfold is also beginning to host internships for ACU students. Theatre student Emily Rankin stage-managed Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged for Penfold in August.

"I'm really hoping that this turns into a long-term program for students," said Ryan. "These internships would provide more opportunities for ACU students to work with a professional theatre company and gain more experience."

Hester agrees. "It's a great pipeline to have with a professional theatre, with folks who know us that we respect and that we feel comfortable sending our students to work with," he said.

Faith in action

Not only is the trio committed to bringing quality theatre to the Austin area, Nathan, Ryan and Sean also are dedicated to their faith and sharing it with the community. Nathan and his wife have planted a church in the downtown area close to the University of Texas.

"It's exciting to know that these three guys not only are succeeding incredibly artistically, but they're also using their faith to connect with people in different ways," said Hester. "I'm very proud of both who they are and what they stand for."

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