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March 30, 2001

Laura and I are just back from one of our quick periodic trips to Kansas City and a visit with daughter Kathy and her family. While there we had the opportunity to take in two great live theatrical productions. We’re leaving again momentarily to spend this weekend in Tulsa. For three days there, the statewide festival of the Oklahoma Community Theatre Association will be held at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. Twelve theatres, like Perry’s own Stagecoach Community Theatre, will compete for honors there in front of their peers and a panel of three adjudicators who will grade them and critique all phases of each performance. Before that, we will take in Stagecoach’s latest production, “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” at the new Heritage Center Theatre in downtown Perry. In just a few weeks we’ll be off for New York to take in as many Broadway productions as we can squeeze in. You’d think all that should satisfy our thirst for drama and comedy on the stage, but chances are it will only whet the appetite for still more.

These OCTA festivals are held only on alternate years, but they are eminently worthwhile for anyone who has the slightest interest in live stage productions. For one thing they show what amateurs can do when someone says, “Let’s put on a play!” We have been attending the festival for nearly 25 years and we still marvel at the high quality of direction, set design, lighting, and even special effects, not to mention the skill of the performers, as demonstrated by those who are brave enough to mount an entry. We know the kind of jitters they feel as they await their turn to perform, but invariably the groups find it all worthwhile if only for the constructive criticism provided by the panel of judges. It’s like a college course in theatre art.

You’ll see that also in the current Stagecoach production right here in Perry. The actors on stage will transport you to other places in a fanciful telling of this story on the stage of this marvelous new theatre here in Perry. A catered dinner will precede the play and that is always an enjoyable event. It’s worth the price of admission just to enjoy the comfort of the Heritage Center but you also will be pleased with the quality of the Stagecoach play under the direction of Toni Miller. Tickets are available at several locations. From all indications, each performance may be completely sold out.

Bob Herod served as president of OCTA after retiring here and moving to Tulsa. Like many community theatre activists, he is not an onstage performer, but he became a theatrical buff while serving on the Stagecoach board of directors and later as president. He is an organizer, a leader, and he contributed immeasurably to the growth of our little community theatre during the time he lived in Perry. The lesson there is, you don’t have to put on greasepaint and memorize lines to be a valuable member of Stagecoach Community Theatre. There’s a big demand for all kinds of skills, even if it’s just someone to unlock the front door or distribute handbills. You might even become bitten by the bug so much that you’d travel to Kansas City, Tulsa and New York to satisfy the craving. And what’s more, you’ll have fun doing it! I recommend that you give it a try.