Lisa Lacy carries a great deal of ambition for her Images Theatre Company, both in the present and the near future.
This weekend, Images opens its production of Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Ruined" with Lacy in the central role of Mama Nadi.
Lacy hopes the production can propel Images into a greater public consciousness as she moves the company toward professional status.
As the co-founding executive director of Images, Lacy has guided her small company since 2003, along with co-founder Charles Cooper, a composer and lyricist.
The two initially came together in 2002 as co- creators of the California Musical Theatre's Martin Luther King Jr. Project productions "Keeping the Dream Alive" and "And the Dream Goes On," both of which were written with Anthony D'Juan.
Lacy and Cooper continued forming Images, and producing plays as well as their own original musicals. The musicals were more financially viable and allowed the company to build a dedicated audience as it bounced around theaters. It settled at Oak Park's Guild Theater in 2008.
The pair staged their own shows such as "We Come From Greatness" and "Legacy" while Lacy, an Equity actor, performed in shows such as "IPH (Iphigenia at Aulis)," produced by San Francisco's African-American Shakespeare Company, and as Aunt Ester in the Sacramento Theatre Company's production of August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean."
Lacy has all along had the vision of Images eventually becoming Sacramento's first professional African American theater company. To be successful she'll have to deal with the major challenge that other emerging professional companies have here: finding the appropriate venue.
"We've been around now for nine years, and we're not going anywhere anytime soon," Lacy said.
"We need someplace we can call our own that we can afford to be in all the time."
For this production of "Ruined" the company rehearsed in another space for several weeks before moving to the Guild to save on rental costs. Of course, working in the theater is quite different than in a rehearsal space, and director Buddy Butler has spent valuable time restaging the production for the Guild's stage.
The drama and intensity of "Ruined" come through its visceral representation of a world very foreign to most of us.
Lacy's Mama Nadi runs a combination brothel and bar in a remote rural mining town at the edge of Congo's jungle. Her customers include miners, government soldiers, guerrilla militiamen, arms merchants and even a charming traveling salesman.
Mama Nadi has to carefully avoid offending anyone and must make friends with all sides while threats of sudden violence pervade just about every scene.
"I saw the production at Berkeley Rep and thought this is something I have to do in Sacramento," Lacy said.
"It is such a critical work and important story to tell about what goes on in the world and what happens to other people. We see snippets of it on the news, but rarely go into the details of it and realize how blessed we are."
WHAT:Images Theatre Company presents Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize- winning drama about women in the lawless war-ravaged Congo.
WHERE: The Guild Theater, 2828 35th St. (35th and Broadway), Sacramento
WHEN: Previews at 8 p.m. today and Saturday, opening at 3 p.m. Sunday. Continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through June 3.
TICKETS: $15-$20. Available at www.imagestheater.org or Underground Books, 2814 35th St., Sacramento.
INFORMATION: (916) 428-1441 or www.imagestheater.org.