2019 marks the 40th anniversary of one of Waxahachie’s shining stars, the Waxahachie Community Theatre.
Since its inception, the nonprofit theatre has only grown in both stature and support, with productions often involving dozens of people on stage while also drawing crowds in excess of 500 people to its main venue of the historic Chautauqua Auditorium.
“We had 62 people cast in ‘Shrek’ (October 2018),” said Kasi Jones, theatre director since the fall 2010. “That was our biggest cast since the 50-plus we had involved with ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ (October 2016).”
And work already is under way for the 40th season with returning favorite “Forever Plaid” (February) and first ever productions of “Mamma Mia” (May), Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (October) and “Miracle on 34th Street” (December).
“We’re excited about the season and these productions,” Jones said.
The theatre’s summer productions for children and teens are still to be announced; however, dates have been set and season tickets are available for sale now.
2019 season kickoff
The theatre’s 2019 season officially kicks off Saturday, Jan. 19, with a look back at the 2018 season. This will be the WCT’s ninth annual Black & White Gala, themed this year as “Denim & Diamonds.” The gala opens with a red carpet walk at 6 p.m. at University Church in Waxahachie.
“During the gala, we spotlight our awards from the 2018 season,” Jones said, noting black tie is optional. “It’s always a very fun evening. We have dinner and music, along with the awards.” This year’s special musical guest will be award-winning jazz musician Corey Breedlove of Dallas.
Major grant received
Of special note going into the 40th anniversary year is the theatre’s recent receipt of a major grant.
“We begin the year by announcing a $30,000 grant award from the Rea Charitable Trust of Midland, Texas, which was created in 2009 to support a variety of charitable causes, with its primary purpose being the promotion of the arts,” Ellis said.
The late Isabel McClintic Rea “was known as one of Midland’s most talented pianists,” according to the trust, which was established by her family in recognition of her love of music. The grant competition is open to arts organizations from across the nation, with a preference for those in New York, Texas and Virginia.
The $30,000 received by the theatre will go toward improving its audience’s experience and enjoyment of the productions.
“The most obvious improvement the audience will see will be the 300 new individual padded chairs, which will replace the wooden benches for our Chautauqua shows,” said Ellis, who prepared and submitted the grant application.
Other purchases include updates to the theatre’s sound and lighting equipment, such as additional LED portable spotlights, a 32-channel sound board and additional microphones.
Jones encourages people to become involved with the theatre – and, if you haven’t attended a production, to do so. Better yet, take part in the auditions and become part of a theatre repertory that has launched more than one career.
A main message Jones and Ellis want to share is that WCT productions are “as good as anything seen in professional theatre.”
The bigger shows involve an eight-week preparation period, with the smaller shows about five.
“People don’t realize the work involved with the productions (beyond the on-stage responsibilities),” Ellis said. “There’s set construction and all sorts of other behind the scenes work.”
All of the big shows are cast through open audition, with the smaller ones (February and December) typically drawn from the repertory.
Open auditions are exciting for Jones, who said, “You never know who is going to walk through that door.” Ellis adds, “Someone brand new can show up and get the part.”
Over the years, productions have seen actors of all ages – as young as age 5 to people in their 70s – while drawing from a wide area that extends beyond Ellis County. You, too, can be a part of Waxahachie Community Theatre, Jones and Ellis said.