News Column

Poteau Community Theater Open To The Whole Family

August 22, 2014

By Scott Smith, Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.



Aug. 22--Live theater -- it's a demanding, draining challenge and yet it serves its recipient a unique, euphoric reward.

Those words come from Lauren Peck-Weisenfels, one of more than 100 members of the Poteau-based Good Times Community Theatre League. The volunteer group will kick off its 2014-15 season with a production of "Little Prince" at 7 p.m.Oct. 16-18 and 2 p.m.Oct. 19 at the Bob Lee Kidd Civic Center, 100 Pirate Lane in Poteau, and the show will demonstrate the talent and dedicated spirit of each cast and crew member, she said.

"We work out of Poteau, even though we are technically homeless," said Peck-Weisenfels, a historian, actor and one of the directors for the group. "In the 1970s, we worked out of an old county building in town that burned in 1979, and we have been wandering nomads since. We occasionally work out of the Poteau High School auditorium, and we do shows at the Donald W. Reynolds Auditorium in Poteau.

"We try to do children's shows, and we even work out of the high school choir room for practice and for actual performances," she added.

Co-founded by Peck-Weisenfels' grandmother, the late Norma Smith, and parents, Richard and Beth Peck, and others in 1973, Good Times Community Theatre League includes as many as 50 active school students and an adult base that ranges in number from 50 to 100. Much of the group's recent productions can be attributed to its Camp Bravo, which started in 2004 and offers classes in acting, singing, dancing and other subjects to participating children, Peck-Weisenfels said.

"Before that, we were really struggling to get people involved, and that camp really turned things around for us," she said. "We have gone from doing a show every couple of years to having five to six shows every season."

The influx of children, as well as a family-type bond that exists among its members, has helped GTCTL gain membership outside of Poteau's city limits, said Peck-Weisenfels, who teaches English, speech and drama at Poteau High School.

"We have a large group of people who come in from other areas that don't have a performing-arts community," she said. "We have a family from Talihina and others who come in to join us."

Traditionally, GTCTL members host auditions two to 2 1/2 months before a production, but even with that kind of planning, members face challenges, Peck-Weisenfels said.

"The problem with not having our own place is, we are having to build the set in someone's garage," she said before laughing. "We are furiously putting together a set and then later running through the show a couple of times, then we start performing in front of people. The adrenaline rush is a lot of fun, but putting together something so quickly, yeah, that can be a challenge."

Peck-Weisenfels and other GTCTL members hope to find a permanent place to stage productions and conduct rehearsals and auditions.

"Within the last couple of years, we have talked about purchasing land or a building," she said. "We've looked at finding the place that we know we will have enough room to grow, and a place we, as a nonprofit organization, can afford. Of course, we're happy to take donations, too."

Peck-Weisenfels' sister, Amanda "Mandy" Townley, serves as president for the group and echoed her sister's sentiment about GTCTL's high-quality entertainment.

"The big thing with our league is, we have shows for kids, shows for adults and everything in between," Townley said. "You can pretty much guarantee that for the majority of the shows, you can bring everyone, even down to the little bitty baby.

"However, if we ever do a more adult-oriented show, then we are quick to let our patrons know that," she added.

Tickets for "Little Prince" will "probably be" $8 for students and $10 for adults and can be purchased by calling (918) 647-3079 and at the door, Peck-Weisenfels said. Season tickets also will be available soon, she said.

GTCTL members will follow "Little Prince" with a musical version of "A Christmas Carol" Nov. 29 through Dec. 1, with times and details to be announced, Peck-Weisenfels said.

"We're waiting on a couple contracts to announce the other shows," she said.

One advantage of GTCTL is the absence of membership fees, Peck-Weisenfels said.

"Anybody can be active in our organization," she said. "It's good because we just consider you a member."

Once a member experiences the "magic" of live theater, it's almost impossible for him or her to leave the group, Peck-Weisenfels said.

"With theater, you have to know exactly where you have to be in the right moment while giving a performance of someone who is nothing like you," she said. "It's fascinating how all of those pieces come together.

"You just don't get that in a movie theater," Peck-Weisenfels added. "In live theater, there is no editing. There's no stopping. When you see those moments that do go wrong, and you see young actors come up with something to cover up that mistake -- and they do it convincingly -- those are some of the most beautiful moments for me."

For information, visit GTCTL's Facebook page.

___

(c)2014 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)

Visit Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.) at www.swtimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel



Source: Times Record (Fort Smith, AR)


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters