I love community theatre. Some of my best memories are of plays I’ve gone to see and who I’ve gone to see them with. They mark time and relationships. “Brigadoon”, “Godspell”, and “Harvey” on the Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey with a dear friend. Harry Chapin’s “Cottonpatch Gospel” at the Biblical Arts Center in Dallas with my family when I was just a kid. (The Center burned in 2005 and has since reopened as the Biblical Arts Museum.) “Camelot” and “The Flying Dutchman” with my mom down in Fair Park. “Porgy & Bess” at the Dallas Theatre Center, where my mom was so impressed by the Kalita Humphreys Theatre designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. “The Foreigner” and one of the Tuna plays with my dad at the Majestic in downtown Dallas, and all the other Tuna plays at the Tuna Little Theatre in the Dallas Anatole. “Dracula” in the Grange Hall over in Frisco with my husband, “Hello, Dolly” and “My Fair Lady” at the McKinney Summer Musicals, and countless productions at The Pocket Sandwich Theatre on Mockingbird in Dallas with various friends.
You never know what you are going to get from a community theatre production. In Monterey, they managed to slip a Janet Jackson song into that production of “Godspell” and, in Brigadoon, one of the actors fell off of their bar stool in the New York scene. I like these small productions better than the slick ones that you get at Fair Park though. They seem more personal.
When I went to see “Robin Hood, The Musical” as performed by Word of Mouth Productions at the McKinney Performing Arts Center (MPAC), the Sheriff of Nottingham was played brilliantly by (I’m guessing) a ten-year old with a painted-on villain mustache amidst a forest of potted silk ficus trees. I really enjoyed it even though it was really geared for kids and the music was recorded. It was just pure fun and energy.
So, when I saw the flyer for “The Return To Calamity Gulch” coming up the first two weeks of August (also in the MPAC), I was interested to know if this was going to be like the popcorn tossers I’ve seen at Pocket Sandwich Theatre or more like “Robin Hood, The Musical”. From what I can tell, this looks like an honest-to-goodness popcorn-tossing melodrama, more like the former than the latter, and I’m getting pretty excited about this.
The McKinney Repertory Theatre has a group page over on Facebook with photos posted from previous performances as well as promotional pictures for the upcoming “Calamity Gulch”. Pictures from a past performance of “Blame It On The Pony Express” show exactly the kind of community theatre that makes memories and good times for all who attend. These kinds of performances make great “date nights” and are truly fun for people of all ages. I wrote to the MRT president, Lisa Miller, and got permission to share a photo or two to help spread the word.
The promotional pictures for “Return To Calamity Gulch” show a fun-loving cast with tons of energy. Musical accompaniment for the melodrama will be provided by Bob Whiteman on the Wurlitzer Pipe Organ, one of the few remaining theatre organs from the days of silent films. While big theatres during the silent era used a full orchestra if they could, the next best thing was a theatre organ. MPAC’s restored 1920’s organ is a monster, with 17 pipes and 3 consoles. For more information on the restoration of the organ and technical tidbits, please see “The Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ Restored in McKinney, TX” by Bob Smith.
“Return To Calamity Gulch” opens Friday, August 3rd at 8PM. It will play that Friday and Saturday and the next weekend (August 10th and 11th), closing with a Sunday matinée at 2pm. Groups and senior discounts are available and there is a canned good exchange for popcorn to toss at the actors. You bring canned goods that will be donated to the North Texas Food Bank and they give you popcorn. MPAC performances generally have concessions and there is an ATM in the basement if you need or want to get cash for those. Tickets appear to be $17.
See you there?
Until next time,