Archive for Sunday, June 23, 2002

Community theater celebrates 25 years with homecoming gala

June 23, 2002


Lawrence Community Theatre will commemorate its 25th year June 30 with a gala featuring performers from past musicals.

"I think it's going to be a dynamite night of theater and musicals," said Laurie VanderPol, the show's director.

Performers will travel from across the United States to participate in the show, presenting numbers from some of the theater's most popular musicals.

"We don't need that much (practice) because everybody's mastered their songs already," she said. "A lot of them are masterful performers anyway."

VanderPol said many outstanding performers have graced the theater's stage since the organization began in 1977.

The theater had its start when a small group of individuals pooled their money to dramatize one show. The production, "The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wilde," was a success, and the group continued to perform, said Mary Doveton, the theater's managing and artistic director.

The only problem was the group didn't always have a facility.

"There wasn't one central location, and that made it extremely difficult," she said.

Doveton said performers experienced a lack of practice time on whatever stage was available for a show, and sets were created and stored all over town.

"I remember one set in particular when we were painting things ... and things were propped against fences," Doveton said. "Some rather unobliging birds came by and did their own decoration to the flats."

The group finally acquired and renovated an old church building at 1501 N.H. in 1984. The ensemble has used the building for 18 years.

"The theater has grown so that we're back at a point where we're out of storage space and storing things all over town again," she said.

Doveton said the theater has more than 1,000 season ticket holders and 500 volunteers. Performers range in age from 5 to 85 years old.

VanderPol said this is partially because of Doveton's determination to make the theater work.

"It takes a lot of tenacity to make a theater break even every year, and this theater's done that," she said.

VanderPol said the gala was planned to celebrate the theater's reoccurring success. Gala attendees will receive dinner with the choice of three entrees, and, of course, live entertainment. The evening will include selections from "Forever Plaid," "My Fair Lady," "Nunsense" and more.

Doveton said those working on and performing at the gala are talented and diverse.

"(The theater is) one of the few places in the community that people from a wide variety of backgrounds, economic differences, educational differences and ethnic differences can come together and join forces to work toward a common goal," she said.

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