Archive for Monday, April 6, 1998

THEATER VOLUNTEER DRAWN TO THE STAGE

April 6, 1998

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Peg Sampson's volunteer work with the Lawrence Community Theatre and Audio Reader has helped fulfill some of her lifelong passions.

Peg Sampson knew what her mission was when she and her husband moved from Houston to Lawrence in the fall of 1994.

``I hadn't even unpacked my boxes yet,'' she said. ``I had heard about auditions at the community theater, so I ran over there and tried out and got a part. That's one of the things I promised myself I would do if I ever moved to a small town, is get involved with the local community theater.''

Sampson, who was bitten by the theater bug in junior high, was elated to Iand a role in ``Inspecting Carol'' after arriving in Lawrence three and a half years ago. She has been volunteering with the Lawrence Community Theatre since that time, performing in five plays, as well as serving on the play selection committee and board of directors. Sampson is always willing to lend a hand, whether it's assisting with mailings, ushering, or baking cookies for intermission.

She has performed in community theaters over the years in such places as Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. Sampson says the LCT is among the best.

``Lawrence has an extremely excellent community theater,'' Sampson said. ``I was a theater major in school, and at my heart I am an actress. I feel that community theater is a very important part of the community. The person who seats you, the person who turns on the lights for you, the actors, are all your neighbors and friends. It is such a communal effort to do something of quality and entertainment for the community.''

She says she is thrilled to be a part of the theater and work with such creative, dynamic and giving people.

``The people that you meet, especially when you're working on a show with your other cast and crew members. You become like a family for that six weeks,'' Sampson said. ``You form a bond that you can't ever sever. We still get together - members of the casts of various shows - and still feel this tremendous closeness because we all accomplished something together.''

Sampson especially loved working with fellow cast members in ``Our Town'' last September, which she singled out as her favorite play at the LCT. She was ecstatic volunteering with such a diverse cast of 25 people, who ranged in age from 8 to 82 years old.

``During the final scene of `Our Town,''' I could actually hear people in the audience crying, she said. ``That is so moving that you had such an impact on these folks and moved their emotions. It's like a gift.''

Mary Doveton, managing artistic director of the LCT, appreciates that Sampson has shared her gifts and talents with the theatre over the past three and a half years.

``Peg's a very special person,'' Doveton said. "She devotes lots of time and energy and talent to every task that she takes on. She's one of the most enjoyable volunteers we've ever had at the theatre.''

Sampson has been able to combine her love for theater and reading as a volunteer with Audio-Reader, a closed circuit radio station that broadcasts to more than 6,000 blind, elderly, and disabled people across Kansas and Western Missouri. She has been volunteering there for three years.

``I love it,'' Sampson said. ``Audio-Reader is one of the finest organizations I have ever worked with. To be able to help someone out who has lost that power (to read) or needs help with that, it's the greatest feeling there is."

She enjoys her duties each week reading the Kansas City Star and also local newspapers of western Kansas. Her favorite task, though, is doing live audio description at area theaters, including the Lied Center and LCT. Using special transmitting equipment, Sampson describes what is happening on stage for theater patrons who wear a small headset.

She finds audio description exhilarating. This was never so apparent than the time she admirably described ``Beyond the Miracle'' to a group of nine children from the School of the Blind. Sampson, who didn't have the necessary transmitting equipment at the time, actually sat with the children in the audience and ``whispered all the necessary information to them.''

``When it got exciting, they would grab onto my arm and lean forward towards me,'' Sampson said. ``At the end of the show, the audience rose and gave a standing ovation. So I said to the kids, `Everyone is standing up to show their extreme appreciation of the show. It you want to stand up, you can.' The kids stood up, and the dogs (seeing-eye) stood up, and it was just great. It was one of the most heartwarming things I have ever been through.''

She is excited about her next challenge of doing audio description for ``Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.''

Sampson also is looking forward to producing ``Letters from Grandma'' on Mother's Day at the Lawrence Community Theatre.

``Those are my passions here in town -- Audio-Reader and the Lawrence Community Theatre,'' she said. ``That's why this combination- audio describing and the theater- it's perfect. It's perfect.''

-- The Volunteer Profile is a service of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center.

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