A sock is a shoe, and a buskin is a boot. But together, the two have cemented their names in the arts and now in a new theatre company based around Centre County.
Gregg Baptista, the treasurer for the new group called Sock & Buskin Theatre Company said the new community company is taking a “collaborative approach” to the arts.
Sock & Buskin Theatre Company is “a 100% volunteer organization” that ‘’builds a community for people that love theatre,” Baptista said.
For company president Stefanie Austin, “theatre is like a family to people” that creates an environment in which community members can collaborate and share the same passions that were important to her when piecing together Sock & Buskin.
Austin formed the company, which performs mainly in State College and Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, with several others in 2022.
“You get to be your true self, express yourself and spend time with a diverse group of people, and it does become your community,” Austin said. “We want to foster that and get more people involved.”
Aside from uniting local actors and crew members, Sock & Buskin strives to “engage the community” by bringing in “local talent and vendors,” Austin said.
In fact, Sock & Buskin’s debut show in May, “Sibbleger,” was written by local playwright David L. Williams — who lives in nearby Bellefonte.
“I never realized there were these great playwrights next door,” Baptista said. “There is this tremendous talent in this area that we want to tap into.”
With one show under the company’s belt, Secretary Kari Williamson said “there [has been] good engagement from the audience,” and she is “excited” for the next shows that are being planned.
Sock & Buskin is welcoming new members and “heavily recruiting production staff” for its upcoming fall shows “Sin-ergy” and “Cutthroat Christmas,” Austin said.
Encouraging State College and Bellefonte community members to join in, Austin said the company will find a place for anyone in its work even if one “[doesn’t] know where to start.”
To support this process, Sock & Buskin is planning to offer “role shadowing,” Austin said.
During this process, those interested would have the opportunity to learn different features of a theater, including lighting and audio, she said.
Along with the idea of establishing a learning environment, Austin said there is more behind the name Sock & Buskin as it’s the nickname for the famed “comedy and tragedy masks,” often associated with theatre.
Jumping back to the times of traditional ancient Greek theatre, “comedic actors wore a sock- like shoe” while the “tragic actors wore a boot called a buskin,” Austin said when describing the history behind these nicknames.
“We like the history and the story,” Austin said. “Also, we didn’t want to tie [the name] to a specific city just because we didn’t know where our journey would take us.”
Returning back to theatre roots is a theme that runs throughout Sock & Buskin, according to Baptista, guiding its participants back to their passions for theatre.
“I did theatre in high school and college, and I just came back to it recently, so it is kind of nice that this came up, and I was able to take part in it when I was enthusiastic about it,” Baptista said.
Williamson agreed with these sentiments, saying “all of [her] theatre experience had been from when [she] was younger” and that it has been “refreshing” this year to do it as a mature person.
Whether it be returning to a loved passion or having a new experience to delve into, Austin said Sock & Buskin has proved to create an environment that supports local and delivers new forms of theatre.
“We really want it to be a positive thing for everyone involved,” Baptista said, “to make this a place that is a positive experience for people that fosters and encourages their love for theatre and performing.”
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