Community Theatre was born from the dreams of sixteen hardy souls
who met in the Spring of 1969 to form an organization to develop,
promote, teach and stimulate interest in the dramatic arts. Jerry
Napier was President of the new Theatre, with Sandy Ford serving as
Vice President, Martha Hitch as Secretary, and Rowland
Geddie as Treasurer. Other charter board members included Marilyn
Bank, Martha Geddie, Bill Hitch, Dr. Jack Kellum, Linda Kinsey, Gus
Liveakos, Margaret Anne Murphey, Jean Pettis, Charlotte Westbrook
and Mary Alice McAlister. The other two founding Board members, Ruth
Liveakos and Edith Thomas, are currently serving with Gene Murphey
as emeritus members of the Board!
Since Laura, presented on October 2, 1969, at the Church
Street School Auditorium under the direction of Ruth Liveakos, TCT
has presented more than 230 different productions, seen by literally
tens of thousands of theatre-goers. In 1973, the Theatre’s first annual
Summer Youth Theatre production -- Lil’ Abner, directed
by Ellen Short and presented in the Fellowship Hall of First United
Methodist Church - was added to the three-play regular season. TCT’s
first Dinner Theatre production, a collection of three one-act plays,
debuted in the Ramada Inn in September, 1975.
For the first several years of its existence, TCT was a gypsy troupe, performing wherever there was available space, with performances presented at
locations as diverse as the Church Street School Auditorium, the Milam School Auditorium, the Ramada Inn, the Civic Auditorium, the Lee County
Courthouse, the old Fairgrounds and the Fellowship Hall at First United Methodist Church. In 1976, the Theatre purchased an old church building on East
Main and, in slightly over a month, turned it into a theatre ready for its first production -- The Best Man, directed by Celia Fleishhacker. It was at the East
Main building that TCT became a community fixture, presenting such well-remembered hits as Dracula, The Robber Bridegroom, Harvey, and Annie.
While fond memories remain of the old playhouse, its limitations were legion, so when the opportunity arose to purchase the Lyric Theatre in 1984, the
Theatre plunged ahead.
Starting with the premiere production of On Golden Pond,
in May, 1985, more than 200,000 theatre-goers have seen one of the
more than 250 TCT productions presented at the Lyric Theatre. Beginning
with its first full season in the Lyric, TCT’s regular season expanded
to four productions, including a full-scale musical presented each
year during Gumtree weekend. In 1988, the Theatre added an additional
play just after the first of the year as a special fund-raiser to
help make it through the financially lean months of Spring. The first
of these fund-raisers, BROADWAY!, with original musical
arrangements, choreography and staging by Beverly Clement, Sarah Karrant
and Jess Mark, added a whole new
type of show to the Theatre’s repertoire -- the flash and dazzle of
the song-and-dance revue. In 1994, the Theatre took advantage of the
space available in the new North Annex to turn the winter show into a dinner theatre production, which has
quickly become one of the most popular events in TCT’s calendar. In 2007 TCT added the "bonus" production to it's four show line up and began its five show season.
Since moving to the Lyric, the Theatre has offered special
performances by professionals intended as educational experiences
for young people. These have included Shakescenes on Tour
by Jackson New Stage in 1992, Mark Twain’s America by
Will Stutts in 1993, Love Letters by Anthony
Herrera and Jessica Tandy, presented in the fall of 1993, and
Mississippi Talkin’ II, presented in 1994, also by Jackson
New Stage. Recent education guest artists have included Kuniko
Yamamoto, Opal Palmer Adisa, Kevin Reese and Mary Hall Surface and
in 2006 Metro Theater Company with their performance of Long
Road to Freedom in partnership with St. Paul United Methodist Church.
In 2009 TCT, under the leadership of Caroline Upthegrove and Carlton Wall, began the sucessful improv troupe West of Shakerag. That group continues to thrive and provides weekly performances at the Link Centre Black Box space.
In 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2013 TCT won the "Best Production" at the Mississippi Theatre Association Festival. In 2004 its production of Bel Canto was one of the winners at the Southeastern Theatre Conference festival and in 2013 The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee won outstanding ensemble and costumes, Alex Hargett won a special award for "commitment to a physical moment" and the show was the runner-up best production. TCT has won more than 60 awards in the last 20 years and TCT board members and staff have been active leaders at state, regional, and national level.
In 2006, with community support, TCT replaced its original fly loft system with a modern counter weighed system at a cost of $500,000. During 2011 TCT completed the renovation of its marquee and front of the Lyric and in the summer of 2013 all seating in the balcony was replaced.
While much has changed in the almost forty five years since that first
production, TCT's purpose has never wavered -- to develop, promote,
teach, and stimulate interest in the dramatic arts.