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Stirring up memories


Curtain going up!
August 15, 2007

The lights dim.

Hurry, hurry, time to find your place before they go out.

Just as you settle in, darkness covers the theater, quiet falls and then-"Curtain going up!"

Another performance at the Troupe Street Theatre where the actors of the Bainbridge Little Theatre practice their craft and delight their audiences.

This October the performers will welcome in the 33rd season of the Bainbridge Little Theatre when the curtain rises on the classic Southern thriller, "The Bad Seed."

It will kick off an outstanding season of much drama, fun and music.

A traditional salute to Christmas, "A Christmas Carol," will launch the holiday season. The musical is the big event in the theater's season and this year will be particularly exciting when Damon Runyon characters of Sky Masterson, Sarah Brown and winsome Adelaide sing and dance the story of "Guys and Dolls." Finally, the season closer will be "Sylvia."

I don't know much about this play, but director (and Little Theatre chairman) Martha Mobley promises an evening of fun-bound to be. Martha does share that the "Sylvia" of the title is a dog.

The Little Theatre has not always raised the curtain at the Troupe Street Theatre. Shortly after Bainbridge College opened its doors in 1973, some faculty members-Eunice Knight, Michael Gast and Dottie Randall of the humanities and continuing education departments-took the initiative and established the players.

At first they "performed around," at the American Legion Hall, the VFW and frequently at Elcan-King School.

That's where on the evening of Jan. 17, 1974, the curtain rose on "Barefoot in the Park," the first performance by BLT. Ed Marsicano, Ksena Zipperer, Helen Kelly, Basil Lucas, Larry Nichols and Adelaide Wolfe brought it all together under Eunice Knight's firm direction.

The veteran troupers of those early years share lots of good memories.

Basil Lucas recalls in one production of a play at the Climax School he had a puppy on stage. He was supposed to take it to an outside door and hand it to a stage hand so that he could return to the action.

All went well in rehearsal, but on opening night when he opened the door, no one was there. What to do with the dog?

Basil set him down on the backstage floor and returned to the stage, but the wily hound had run around the back and beat him there.

Time to improvise. (Basil may want to think twice about trying out for "Sylvia.")

In those early days, the troupe was always on the lookout for possible actors.

Eunice Knight once told me the story of how when she saw Rob Gringas emerging from his Bainbridge College interview with Mariella Hartsfield, she marched right in as he departed to insist that whatever his qualifications, he must be hired forthwith.

"He's the best looking man I've ever seen. We've got to have him for Bainbridge Little Theatre."

Many still remember Rob's performances in "Blithe Spirits" and "Li'l Abner."

Basil says that it was often more a case of recruiting than of auditioning. He recognized an actress in Margaret Maynard's voice, and asked her to perform the role of Hester Smedley in his original play, "Weeds."

It was the beginning of Margaret's long career with the Little Theatre as a performer and as a board member.

Margaret says her favorite role (and most challenging) is as the lead in "Driving Miss Daisy," but the funniest moment was a scene in "Cemetery Club," when Judy Becotte doused her with a glass of wine.

The audience loved it—well almost.

Margaret's two small grandchildren were sitting in the front row. They didn't think it was funny at all and headed for the stage to help out their grandmother. Their mom stopped them just in time. They felt a whole lot better later in the play when Margaret got to slosh a glassful over Judy. Fair is fair.

The 33-year success of the theater group has come from lots of folks. The actors, the appreciative audiences, the devoted boards of directors and many strong supporters.

After performing hither and yon around town it became time to find a permanent home, with the support of theater leaders like George Daniel and Ed Mobley, a deal was struck with a major donor, the Pepsi-Cola area dealer, Max Langston.

When Max moved his growing business from the plant on Troupe Street he made a wonderful offer. He gave, yes, gave the building to the Little Theatre and Troupe Street Theater came into being. But it was a job. The building was that-an empty building that had once been an auto shop. The second floor had once been reached by an elevator large enough to send cars to the second floor. Down to work.

Chairman Martha Mobley remembers the first production in the theater. The troupe was worried about putting on a show in the unfamiliar place. They wrote and performed their own—"Class Act." It was a hit.

Martha recalls that they borrowed the folding chairs from Cox Funeral Home, when they weren't already spoken for. But the theater took shape and continues to grow and thrive.

Ed Mobley chaired a group name "Friends of the Theatre" that raised almost $50,000 by selling the new theater seats for $300 each. Ed also made a persuasive case to the Decatur County Commission, who then made a substantial donation.

The generosity has continued through the years.

Max Langston donated the Ruth Langston garden and made a generous bequest in his will.

The Kirbo Charitable Trust has given a grand piano and contributed to many other improvements.

But a large share of the theater's support comes from its subscribers. And it's that time of year again.

Many of us have received brochures from the theater in the last week or so. You can buy season tickets for adults ($40) and students ($20) or give a little more-there are several levels of support. If you become a supporter ($50 a person) you will be invited to the annual Patron's Party. This year it will be in the home of Berry and Clayton Penhallegon-some will remember when Clayton played a most believable Dracula.

If you didn't get a brochure but want to support the theater, you can call Martha Mobley at 246-5454 or the theater at 246-8345 one will be in the mail to you.

The refreshments at the party are always provided by the board and there are some long-time favorites. Martha almost wouldn't share this recipe because she said it was too easy. Easy or not, it is a Bainbridge favorite.

Martha Mobley's Classic Deviled Eggs
Hard boil eggs. Cut the eggs in half and remove the yolks. With a fork mix in lots of Hellmann's Mayonnaise. Martha says it has to be Hellmann's and it has to be "lots and lots." Season with salt and pepper. Stuff the egg halves with the yolk mixture and top with an olive.

I questioned Martha about maybe mustard, maybe relish. She maintains just lots and lots of Hellmann's. She's right. It's easy. I'm right. They are great.

Board treasurer Bonnie Porter is as often behind the scenes making sure things go smoothly as her husband is in front of the audience as a perennial performer. Speaking of things going smoothly, here is a smooth favorite from Bonnie that she ensures shows up at all BLT parties.

Bonnie Porter's Spicy Queso (cheese dip)
16 ounces Velveeta Cheese
1 10-ounce can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes with Lime Juice and Cilantro
1 small poblano pepper-finely chopped
1 - 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and veins removed, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon white pepper
cilantro, ¼ cup chopped (less or more to taste)

Chop the cheese into small chunks and melt at two minute intervals in microwave-stir to smooth and add Ro-Tel.

Microwave after adding Ro-Tel to ensure smoothness. Add poblano and jalapeño peppers, white pepper and cilantro.

Serve warm with Tostitos White Corn Scoops

Bonnie says to control the degree of spiciness by checking as you add the jalapeños. At my house, I'd probably serve them on the side. She adds that the secret special ingredient is the white pepper. Don't leave it out!

Post-script: If you feel the call to be a performer yourself, check out the brochure-all the audition information is there.

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