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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spotlight Theater and Arts Group, Etc. (S.T.A.G.E.)

First, let me acknowledge another writer whose ideas I freely borrowed from:  Ellen Debenport, my good friend since Bonham Junior High School.  Ellen is a former political journalist-turned-minister.  She wrote a book, The Five Spiritual Principles, and in it she had a question-and-answer section in which each question started out, “Yes, but what about….?”  I liked that so much that, ok, well, I stole it.  Then I told Ellen about it after the fact.  She was gracious, and I promised to give her credit for it and mention her book to boot.  You can order it at www.unity.org. 
The dinner theater last night was delightful. 
S.T.A.G.E. (Spotlight Theater and Arts Group, Etc.--I can see why they added "Etc." to complete the acronym) is part of a whole network of small, non-profit theaters around the country.  The idea for this particular theater started when Earl’s wife got bitten by the acting bug, as she put it, when she was in a community theater production in the Eighties.  She knew then what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.  She told Earl, “Build me a theater!”  and that’s what he did, right next to his towing business and junkyard.. 
I didn’t know what to expect when we walked into the modest structure.  I certainly didn’t expect a life-sized mannequin dressed to resemble Genghis Khan.  There was also an old piano, a table covered with clippings and reviews of theater productions, and photos of someone's German ancestors on the wall.  The front half of the building served as the dining hall.  Food was homy fare and included  meat, potatoes, gravy, salads, plus a tempting array of homemade pies and cakes.  It was set out cafeteria style on tables against the wall.  A cashier seated at a card table collected money as the diners exited the food line. 
The theater section was separated from the dining area by a huge curtain.  A teenager in sneakers and t-shirt led us to our seats, which were tabbed with post-it notes bearing our names.  We were about half an hour early, but pre-play entertainment was provided.  A middle-aged woman stood on stage, microphone in hand, singing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” as people found their seats.  After “Crazy” she sang “Crocodile Rock.”  Part of the back row joined in on the chorus.  Then came “To Sir, with Love.”   By that time I was singing along.  She ended with “What a Wonderful World,” in a dead-on impression of Louis Armstrong.  Talk about range. 
Then the curtains pulled back jerkily, and the play began.  It was a clever comedy called Marrying Terry.  I thought the acting and production was excellent for community theater, certainly on a level with what I’ve seen in San Antonio.  Afterwards, the cast formed a reception line at the door.  I thought that was a nice touch. 
I’m glad we finally checked out this little theater.  We’ve driven by it so many times and said, “Let’s try this place,” and, after six years, we finally did.  We’ll be going again, that’s for sure.  Even if we have to dodge the occasional deer, raccoon, or skunk to get there. 

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