From a young age, Roxi Witt has been enthralled with the art of theatre. As a Rose Curtain Player at Owensboro High School, Witt was particularly drawn to musicals. In fact, after being a part of the production of Funny Girl, Witt says, “it was in my blood.” Still, after high school, Witt moved on to Murray State and aspired to pursue a political science degree and become a lawyer. But a drama class and some volunteer work with the school theatre reignited her passion for the art. So Witt changed majors and graduated with a degree in speech and theatre.
Logically, the next step was to find a job that utilized her theatre background, and specifically, her passion for production. As Witt put it, she liked to be behind the scenes, “playing the king-maker instead of the king.” But things didn’t go quite as she had planned. Having difficulty finding employment in her field, Witt obtained a teaching degree, and returned to Murray State, where she earned a Master’s degree in business administration. Unbeknownst to Witt at the time, her educational path was laying the groundwork for her future career.
In a twist of good fortune, while Witt’s career arc seemed to be moving away from theatre and toward business, the opening of the Curris Center at Murray State coincided with Witt’s return to campus. Upon its opening, Witt was offered a job in the Curris Center office. This afforded Witt the opportunity to manage the operations of a facility, including scheduling, working with the custodial staff, and setting up and tearing down for events. While the position at the Curris Center provided invaluable experience in administration, Witt’s path to a career in theatre still wasn’t clear.
After obtaining her Master’s and returning home to Owensboro, Witt began working for the West Kentucky Small Business Development Center. After eighteen months, Witt then put her degree in business administration to work as the economic development director at GRADD, where she stayed for eight years. During that period, Witt enjoyed more free time, which she filled with volunteer work at Theatre Workshop of Owensboro (“TWO”). Though not paid for her time, Witt willingly and happily performed the duties that a full-time employee might otherwise have done. While volunteering at TWO, Witt staged and produced six summer musicals. Seeing a need for a place for children to become involved in the arts, she also started the TWO youth theatre program.
In hearing Witt recount her volunteer days at TWO, it quickly becomes clear that she cherishes her time there. As part of the youth theatre program, Witt says that two plays stand out, The Littlest Angel and The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever. While organizing those productions, Witt remembers that she was working at GRADD from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., then rushing to rehearsal from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with casts totaling 180 kids, and “loving every minute of it.”
One of the turning points in Witt’s career came when the City of Owensboro announced in 1988 that it had received a $4.5 million grant to erect a performing arts center. Upon hearing the news, Witt recounts, “I immediately looked at my dad and my sister, and said ‘That’s where I want to work.’” Once construction on the RiverPark Center was nearing completion, Witt wrote Rodney Berry the first of two letters, pitching herself as the ideal candidate to work at the Center. Suddenly, everything was coming full circle, as Witt found herself in a position to land her dream job as a result of her unique qualifications, including degrees in theatre and business administration. Apparently impressed with her aggressive pitch, as well as with her educational and career background, the RiverPark Center hired Witt in January of 1992 as director of operations.
Since beginning work at the Center, Witt has also worked as general manager, and is now the Executive Director of the RiverPark Center. Having been there from the start, Witt has witnessed countless unique events at the Center. From hosting Broadway shows to wedding receptions to professional seminars, Witt proudly proclaims that “No day is ever the same.” For Witt, managing the operations of the RiverPark Center is akin to performing the duties she had previously done with TWO on a volunteer basis. And that same joy that surfaced while she recounted her volunteer days at TWO is apparent when Witt talks about her job today. In fact, she says “I can’t believe somebody’s paying me to do this!”
Of all the events Witt has been a part of at the RiverPark Center, she unequivocally says that her favorites are the school-day performances. For Witt, it is hard to match the excitement that ensues when the yellow buses pull up to the Center filled with school children eager to see a production. Often, their amazement at the RiverPark Center, and all that it has to offer, produces some pretty memorable quotes. Witt recalls one child in particular who, when walking over the brick pavers engraved with the names of the Center’s patrons, asked “Are we walking on graves?” Those candid moments, along with the joy that comes with organizing events and productions at the Center, help Witt appreciate her job just as much today as when the RiverPark Center opened twenty-two years ago.
Today, in taking on an administrative role, Witt doesn’t always get to see all of the shows at the RiverPark Center. And there are times when she admits to missing the hands-on aspect of producing a play or musical. Still, Witt says there’s never a dull moment, and if you ask the Executive Director of the RiverPark Center what it’s like coming to work there every day, she’ll tell you she “has the best job in town.”