Spotlight Theatre acts out with new community partnerships in Rock Island

Local News

The Spotlight Theatre is at 1800 7th Ave., Moline.

Moline’s Spotlight Theatre is acting out in some positive, productive ways, featuring new partnerships with Augustana College and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center in Rock Island.

The three-year-old theater, 1800 7th Ave., has an agreement with the private college to offer students college credit or paid internships to work on or off stage.

Brent Tubbs, Spotlight co-owner, said it started with now-Augie senior Noah Hill, who starred last June in the title role of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” He offered to help the Spotlight with their summer camps.

Augustana student Noah Hill, with Bethany Sanders, in Spotlight’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” in June 2021.

“We said, sure, what can you do? And he said ‘Everything,’ which is true,” Brent recalled Monday. “He was just kind of the total MVP of the whole summer. I mean, he did the sets, he did the lights, a lot of the props. So from him then, I think we started getting a little more interest from other Augie students about how to help out.”

The theater had a lot of Augie students in the orchestra pit for “Little Shop of Horrors” this fall, music directed by Augie grad Katie Griswold.

Griswold is now assistant music director for “The Sound of Music” (coming up Dec. 3-5, and 10-12), which is being directed by Spotlight co-owner Sara Tubbs, with Augie students Jon Jaworowski as music director and Michael Tarchala as choreographer.

Katie Griswold, Augustana class of 2020, conducting the pit for Spotlight’s “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“The students we’ve had have all been incredible — super passionate, super focused and super responsible,” Sara said Monday. “We’re like, they’re doing something right over there.”

She thought back to her college days (Cal State-Fullerton), when she could get college credit for being involved in theater, so Sara and Brent reached out to Augie theater professor Jennifer Popple to arrange something similar here.

The students can get credit, depending on their Spotlight responsibilities, Brent said.

“Some people who say, run the light board may only get one or two credits, but if somebody is music directing or directing, they can get four credits,” he said, noting Noah Hill is directing the February 2022 show (“The Lightning Thief”), which will be his major senior inquiry project.

Spotlight Theatre owners (and spouses) Brent and Sara Tubbs.

Spotlight will put all their listings on a college website, for student opportunities.

Augie has an internship program, where students can decide whether they can get paid through the college, or earn college credit, Brent said.

King Center after-school collaboration

Sara said doing more outreach with local students has been a goal since starting Spotlight, along with their children’s programs in the theater (which offer classes and performances for kids in grades K-12).

“I knew we definitely wanted to get out into the community and really get to those kids who want to do theater,” she said. “There’s not much theater being taught in schools until really kids are in middle school.”

“We’ve got to get theater into their lives before that,” Sara said. They contacted LaToya Trice, the MLK Center’s youth services manager, who wanted to get the Spotlight involved in their after-school programs.

Spotlight is partnering with the Martin Luther King Center, 630 9th St., Rock Island.

Brent and Sara will teach two different groups (grades K-4 and 5-9) once a week, starting in January, for eight weeks, ending with a performance at the Spotlight (in early March). They’ll include improv exercises, games, short plays, singing and dancing.

“We’d love to bring some of the Augie students in there with us,” she said. “We’d love to get anyone involved in teaching, get them over there, too.”

“We’re gonna get to know the kids, see where their interests lie,” Sara said. “We’ll expose them to a lot of different types of theater and see what’s gonna be the best fit for their showcase.”

The groups will be about 30 students each, and there’s no extra cost for those families, part of the MLK Center’s existing program. And if any of their kids want to be in Spotlight children’s classes at the theater, the King Center will cover those costs, Sara said.

“We’re really, really excited to finally be making this dream come true,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of different ideas. Right before the pandemic hit, we were about to do a big fundraising night for the program to try and raise scholarship money.”

“This is only the beginning and we know that we really want to get out into the community more and theater into the lives of kids,” Sara said. “This is just the beginning for that.”

One of Augie’s big goals is to get more QC students to stay in the area and attend the college, and Spotlight’s partnership may attract more local students to stay.

“That’s definitely something we’re going to be talking with our students about – you know, Augustana is a great choice. And if you guys go to school there, you can still be doing stuff here and get credit for it. And it’s gonna be a really great relationship — we’re excited to see how that blossoms.”

“We’d love to grow into being able to hire full-time staff employees,” Sara said. “That’s the ultimate dream here, too, to provide a place where people can do what they love and make a living doing it.”

For more information on Spotlight programs, visit

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