Performers come from all walks of life

Friday, November 30, 2012

By Karen McNutt

Special to the Tribune

Performers in the Marshall County Community Theatre are on stage next week because of a Christmas show, obviously, but each has their own reason.

Sometimes, it is the irresistible draw of something that just seems like a lot of fun. Other times, it takes some convincing to get people involved in local theatre.

Laura Ingram, a newcomer to the Dixie, says she'd always wanted to do Christmas music here. Jessica Newton, another newcomer, says she has always loved to sing, but it was co-worker and veteran MCCT performer Tyra Banks who talked her into auditioning for the show. Ernie Hamilton says the ladies in his church choir "drug him down here" several years ago; he has been performing ever since.

The performers make a diverse group with a wide range of occupations and interests. But on the Dixie stage they blend their unique voices to create music that uplifts and delights, music that has never existed in that exact way before and will never exist in that exact way again.

Frequently, the little theater is in the blood of the family. Lee Bowles says she joined the theatre in its early days because her mother, a past MCCT president, told her to.

"I'm still doing it because I love the people," Bowles said.

Chance Schrum says he got involved when friends tricked him into auditioning for "High School Musical." He says he was such a shy person, he never thought he'd like it, but "the theatre was my one way to show people who I am. It became my home."

Community theatre offers opportunities to do more than perform. Evan Dumser has been in many productions over the past 15 years, but he also does audio work behind the scenes. Ernie enjoys set building. Tim Pate, a former school choral director, and Debbie Logue, a church music director, have directed shows at the Dixie through the years.

Community theatre is a family affair for many. Tony Cross and daughter Ashley Wilson, both veterans of the Dixie, will perform together for the first time in this show. Allison Mulliniks and Nancy George have been doing shows together for 28 years. Todd Campbell, a long-time MCCT performer, has introduced his young sons to the theatre. Nick Phillips, a performer here since childhood, says, "The Dixie holds a special place in my heart because I met my wife here. I've been fortunate to be able to do things as a family, with my children." Andy and Barbie Pitts enjoy performing together. "It's fun to play opposite her," Andy says. "We've gotten to fall in love on stage several times."

Community theatre is truly a community-builder. In 1996, Betsy Craig, chose Lewisburg as the site for a new business because she wanted to be near the theatre. Cindy Goodman was happy to discover MCCT when she moved here from North Alabama. The thriving MCCT influenced the Pitts in their decision to move here.

Asked what they love about the theatre, cast members' replies include similar themes including love of music, the camaraderie that exists, the friendships that are made, watching talents emerge, and the sheer fun of it. Cassidy Primm loves meeting other people with musical interest. Charles Hill believes that theatre "is an important outlet to balance your life." Kaitelin Almazan says, "It's just a passion. You can't really explain it."

"When Christmas Comes to Town" features Kaitelin Almazan, Tyra Banks, Lee Bowles, Todd Campbell, Betsy Craig, Tony Cross, Evan Dumser, Cindy Goodman, Ernie Hamilton, Charles Hill, Laura Ingram, Debbie Logue, Karen McNutt, Allison Mulliniks, Jessica Newton, Tim Pate, Nick Phillips, Andy Pitts, Barbie Pitts, Cassidy Primm, Chance Schrum, and Ashley Wilson.