Town Theatre is pleased to welcome Lee Martin and Rebecca Seezen to the Board of Governors for the Columbia Stage Society.
Lee Martin was born and raised in NYC. She graduated from Marist College with a BA in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Communication and Music. She also has a BA from St. John’s
University and studied at Indiana University’s Musical Theatre program. Lee has performed extensively in each area where she and her family have resided. Lee and her husband Chuck are the proud parents of daughter Ashley and sons, Jordan and Justin. Lee is excited to be a member of the Town Theatre Board and the Columbia community.
Rebecca Seezen grew up on the Town Theatre stage. A native of Columbia, Rebecca is a graduate of Wake Forest University with a BA in Communications. She has worked in radio and television and is currently the Communications Director at Saint Joseph Catholic School. She and her family are active members at Saint Joseph Church. Rebecca has extensive theatre and vocal experience and enjoys performing at Town with her whole family. She is honored to join the Board of Governors.
DESSERT IMPOSTERS ~ Saturdays, May 6 and 13
Frank Jr. pulled the wool over many an eye as he made his way across the country — picking his professions as he went. As a pilot, “pie in the sky” was Frank’s dessert of choice. While making the rounds as Dr. Conners, he needed all the “brownie” points he could get (we’re serving ours with ice cream). And, in his role to solve the world’s legal problems, Frank Jr. often enjoyed a luscious lemon “bar” or two. We hope you’ll join us for some delicious deserts. All you have to do is go out to eat — and then bring us the receipt. No deception here — your dinner receipt in exchange for dessert!
On our first two Saturday shows (May 6 and 13), we want you to go grab dinner — at a restaurant of your choice — and then bring us the receipt. In exchange for your receipt, we’ll provide dessert on the patio before the show. Dessert will be served from 7:15 to 7:45 PM.
AND… to sweeten the deal (see what we did there?), one lucky participant’s receipt will be drawn at random and your dinner will be on us! (Well, the first $50 of it, anyway!)
So, on Saturday, May 6 and/or Saturday, May 13 — go #DineAroundTown, bring us the bill and enjoy dessert on the patio! Receipts must be dated May 6 or 13 with a time stamp of 4 PM or later. Don’t worry — if you run out of time to grab dinner, we’ll still serve you dessert for $3 — or choose two for $5. Water, soft drinks, beer and wine will also be available for purchase.
Enrollment begins Monday, Dec. 5 at 12 noon. The theatre doors will not be open prior to 11:30 AM.
Due to limited space, we strongly suggest that someone come to register the students in person. If that is not possible, fax or e-mail forms will be received, but please know it may be more difficult for these students to secure a space in the class due to the logistics of the day. Faxes and e-mails received BEFORE 12 noon will be put at the back of the line.
No registrations will be accepted prior to 12 noon.
To keep the process as fair as possible, we cannot allow one person to register multiple students UNLESS those students are siblings.
If you are enrolling siblings, please submit one complete form for each student.
To speed up the process, please have your form completed upon arrival.
Someone should really speak to the Human Resources Department in this place! Have you seen the outfit that Morticia is wearing? I am sure it is not in line with our dress code policy. And while we are at it, I hope someone talks with Gomez about his choice of humor; he may need to attend sensitivity training. Both Pugsley and Wednesday need to be reminded of the workplace violence prevention policies and that they are not allowed to bring torture weapons or explosives to work. I am absolutely positive that Fester is having an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker, but he claims they’re not actually dating. In fact, every single person in this organization: living, dead (and undecided) is probably breaking some rule or regulation in one way or another!! But wait ~ HR actually approves of this?
Why, YES! Yes, it is true that with any company these types of problems would keep any HR Director busy all day and probably pulling their hair out. But when you are talking about the fantastic musical theater production, The Addams Family, these are just fun parts of the plot. What is even better is that each of these characters, and the rest of the ensemble, are wonderfully quirky and a delight to watch on stage. None of this happens by accident, it only happens when you have a remarkable team come together to deliver a quality performance.
I have spent most of my adult life working as an HR professional; first in the military, and now for a state agency. Human Resources is an important function for any organization because people are the most valuable treasure in that organization. I had a boss that said “Love Thy Treasure” and he meant take care of your people. But HR is challenging as I am sure you can imagine. People have lives. They have problems and concerns and it often falls to HR to help. So there is a great deal of responsibility to work here. Sometimes such responsibility wears even the most positive, cheery, optimistic person thin and they need a break or refuge. Theater is mine.
My first theatre role was as Michael in Peter Pan, complete with the footy pajamas, more than 30 years ago. I fell in love with being on stage and performing. For me, having the chance to entertain an audience and see immediate reaction just charges the batteries! As I traveled and moved in the military, small community theatre shows were my hobby and I enjoyed every opportunity to act, especially for my fellow Soldiers. When my family moved to Columbia and I was planning to retire from active duty, I was so excited to find such a vibrant theatre community in the area. The reputation for Town Theatre to produce quality family-oriented shows that celebrate both the familiar traditional shows and the new genre fresh from Broadway and the Touring companies was certainly a draw for me.
I have now had the privilege to be in three of Town’s shows: Disney’s Tarzan, Singin’ in The Rain, and now The Addams Family. Each one has been a fabulous experience. But The Addams Family has been truly special. For one, I joined the cast late as a replacement. From the very first rehearsal I was warmly received and it felt like I had been part of this group all along. When you spend hours each day over several weeks, you become a tight knit group. Each dance rehearsal we could see each musical number coming alive (or at least un-dead) and you can’t help but want to sing the songs. As this show came together you find yourself laughing at the laugh lines and jokes, as with any comedy show. However, what was different was you still have folks laughing days and weeks later even after hearing the same line numerous times. Not because the writing is so clever, but because the delivery and adaptation of the characters by these actors is so well done.
I guess this is the point from an HR professional’s perspective. It’s about the people. The cast and crew and leadership are what you want in your organization. They are caring, generous, capable, professional and serious about their craft. This group of volunteers give of themselves for others to have an enjoyable, memorable experience. I am proud and honored to be part of this team. So much so, that I have actively encouraged my day job office mates to come check out the show. It’s doubly satisfying to entertain one group of colleagues by singing and dancing on stage with another and give both groups some insight into this HR Director’s personality.
If your company was fortunate enough to have the kind of talent that is behind The Addams Family at Town Theatre, it would likely be one of the companies that are featured as “Best Place to Work.” It’s a great chance to have a night out with your co-workers. It makes for some fun conversations around the water cooler on Monday. So, consider it a team building exercise highly recommended by HR.
I’m relatively new to Columbia theatre, but not new to Columbia – at least not anymore. Having called our state capitol home for almost seven years now, I’ve seen productions at pretty much every theatre in town. You might say I’m a rabid theatre goer, or more specifically, I was until I once again found my roots and got back on the stage a year ago.
As a child growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast on a little island called Galveston, I enjoyed performing. I was blessed to have grown up in a musical family and blessed with a musical prodigy for a mother. A love of music and theatre was instilled in me, literally from birth. In elementary school I was a ham; in high school, I decided I wanted to perform for a living. In college I pursued that objective. Then life took me in a different direction and I was absent from the stage for over three decades. While I made it a habit to see live theatre as often as possible, I realized the spotlight wasn’t what I missed. It was the people…
I don’t have children of my own, but having been past the 50-year mile stone for a few years, I look back and realize the role of Gomez is not my first stint at being a dad on stage. I had a couple of stints in college and one or two paid gigs where I explored the idea of fatherhood. But it is the first time I’ve understood being the head of the family-in this case, The Addams Family. What I’ve come to understand, though, is that only now do I have the years under my belt to better understand what that means.
I’ve joked about reading in the Town Theatre Newsletter, The Intermission, the write up about the show, and seeing the words “at the helm is Clayton King.” When I expressed my shock at reading those words, I received a message from the theatre apologizing if I was offended. My quick assurances were that, quite to the contrary, I was humbled. Humbled and a little bit afraid, actually. I’m the father – the head of the household and my brain generally doesn’t work that way. I think in terms of the group – the people, the show, the whole effort.
So why does any of this matter?
Well, anyone who performs in any capacity will tell you applause is gratifying. Those same performers would be lying if they said applause doesn’t matter – it does. But the applause is affirmation of a production, and productions require hard work from everyone involved – the production family.
As a business owner and active church singer, I’ve been asked during the last year how (or why) I devote so much time and energy to theatre. On the assumption my outgoing personality seeks attention, most believe it is because I seek the limelight. While that is partially correct, it doesn’t begin to cover it all.
Theatre is a collaboration of an amazing order. Yes, performers must memorize lines and learn songs, and find ways to naturally bridge the two. But there are many people who work together to make the magic of theatre happen.
There are those people in black – the crew – who make scenery appear and disappear. Generally speaking, there are far fewer of them than cast members, so their work is exponentially harder! There are musicians and musical directors who must learn the entire score and work with individual cast members and the entire company to learn and fine tune the work. Costumers are tasked with creating the very clothes we wear, and helping performers bring their characters to life. There are scenic designers who construct sets, and sometimes rebuild sets, to accommodate specific needs in the show. Lighting designers develop and enhance a production look by (literally) casting it in a certain light. And, ultimately, the director of a show leads everyone in a single direction to accomplish the goal of a successful show. This poor soul actually has to be the bridge between actors, producers, administrators, and more to bring forth a specific vision. Harmony is the best word I can think of to describe that goal.
So yes, I’m currently the father, at the helm of The Addams family. I am privileged to share the stage with some amazingly talented people. I walk on sets and under lights that compliment what I’m doing. To be honest, I’m surrounded by people who make me look good. And hopefully, I am able to respond in kind. But ultimately, for me at least, it’s the collaboration and the sense of accomplishment where my satisfaction is derived. It’s the discipline of rehearsing for months. It’s the joy of having struggled with a line or a lyric and then getting a high-five from a cast mate when you conquer the challenge. And most of all, it’s the sense of family. Let’s be real for a moment; when you spend two or three months with a group of people, you’re family. You fight, you laugh, you hug, you cry, then, usually, you laugh again and bask in the satisfaction of knowing you all made it through to opening night.
The Addams Family has been this kind of experience for me. I am thankful my Town Theatre debut was one where I got to be the dad. And if audiences are moved to applaud, that’s all the better.
Town’s current production of The Honky Tonk Angels is a step back in time — not only will you hear some of your favorite country tunes, you will also drive down the highway with two of the show’s original performers — and meet a new cast member along the way! Town last produced this show in 2002 and then again in 2005 with Kathy Hartzog, Shannon Scruggs and Lori Castille as the angel trio. Shortly after the 2005 production, Castille moved to California so the duo was in need of a new pair of wings. They found that in Alexa Cotran — a music student at the University of South Carolina.
“Alexa is a great addition to the angels,” said Hartzog. “She has just the right amount of innocence that is needed for her character, but then can turn on a dime to become a sassy country singer in Act II.” Cotran has enjoyed the small cast experience after starring in Town’s most recent production of Nice Work if You Can Get It. “Kathy and Shannon have been very welcoming. We work well together — one of us able to pick up where another person leaves off.”
Scruggs appreciates the opportunity to perform her HTA role almost 11 years later. “It is always neat to get to re-do a role. It is particularly fun to ‘hang out’ with Angela again — especially now that I have real-life experience as a housewife and what sometimes feels like a litter of kids. Though, I must say my sweet husband is nothing like this Bubba character I am married to in the show!” Hartzog best explains the characters that audiences will meet. “They are not cartoonish, but they are larger than life.” Scruggs agrees. “You might see a little bit of yourself in each one of these ladies. They have big goals coupled with understandable fears; yet they know that, with a little help, they can follow their dreams.”
The production team includes Allison McNeely as the director with Scruggs as choreographer. Music direction is by Sharon McElveen Altman with Lori Stepp as costumer and Danny Harrington designing the set and lights.
Come see the angels — on stage at Town February 19 to March 6. Tickets are available at www.towntheatre.com or by calling 803-799-2510.
It is one minute until 8 o’clock. From my place in the wings I hear the stage manager call places to the cast, crew and band. From the other side of the curtain, I can hear the slight murmur of audience members who eagerly await the start of the show. I see cast members hurrying to their positions both onstage and off, laughing and talking together, excited to see which family members and friends might be sitting in the audience for this evening’s performance. Then in a moment the lights dim, the music begins and the magic begins.
Few people understand the time that it takes to put a show together from start to finish. Hundreds of hours are spent building sets, gathering and creating costumes, learning music and lines, collecting props, learning choreography, organizing all of the show marketing, and so much more. It truly takes a village of dedicated and passionate people to bring a show to life from start to finish and so few understand the effort that is given by so many to make it all happen seamlessly.
I have had those who have asked why performers willingly give up their free nights and weekends, for months at a time to do a show. I have had those who want to know why performers seem to be magnetically drawn to do shows over and over again. And there have been those who want to know why we are willing to work ourselves to the point of exhaustion to be a part of a cast.
There are a few reasons why we do this, and will continue to feel the call to go back to the stage time and time again.
The first reason is the feeling of community that is built when you do a show with other performers. When people are thrown together in rehearsals for so many hours in such a short period of time, they tend to bond very quickly. Friendships form throughout the cast and you really do become like a family. It is not unusual to walk away from a show with friends that you will keep throughout your life. There is nothing quite like the feeling of connecting with other creative people, finding other common interests, laughing together, sharing together and creating together. Most of my own closest friends are people that I met doing different shows.
Many performers are passionate about what they do. Whether it is dancing, acting, singing or any combination of the three, that passion is so strong that they will find any chance to express it, and will perform as often as they can. When you love doing something as much as the performers I know do, you don’t even think twice about sacrificing your free time to be involved. It is something that comes from deep within the creative soul of a performer that draws them back again and again.
As a singer and actor, I can say that one of my favorite things about doing different shows is the opportunity to create a variety of characters that are vastly different than who I am as a person. It can be both challenging and rewarding to delve into a new character, uncover who they are and experiment with different ways to capture their essence and bring that character to life. It gives me the chance to see what it feels like to be someone that is completely unlike who I am, and to do things that I might not normally do in my own life which is a whole lot of fun!
Finally, we do it for the chance to create something special….to create a little magic. There is nothing in the world like creating something that has to power to transport an audience away from their seats in the theatre to another time and place. To create something magical that has the power to make an audience laugh or cry. With each show, we weave new stories knowing that for a few hours, we give our audience a chance to forget about what it happening in their everyday lives and hopefully entertain and inspire them.
So once again soon, I will find myself in the wings at one minute before eight, listening to the buzz of the audience, the laughter of my cast mates and feeling the anticipation of getting to share something that I’ve created with amazing and creative people….all so that we can share the magic with you!
It seems there is always a very clear moment during a production where I find myself saying, “Why do I do this again?” This usually during tech week when everything is just beginning to come together in what seems to be a haphazard mess of costume changes, sound checks and light cues.
As I stand back and watch the cast scrambling around, the crew hurriedly moving sets about the stage, random noises erupting from the speakers, and the stage lights flashing on and off like a strobe light, it all seems very comical. For some, it’s very easy to get lost among the hubbub and for others frustration is a factor and it’s time to call the whole thing off. But it’s during this time that I close my eyes and recite, “I do this because I love it. I do this because I love the feeling of performing. But most of all, I do this because there is no greater feeling than getting a group of strangers together for three months and making magic happen.” It’s true that there are no people like show people. No other family ~ yes, I said family ~ can lift you up and send you soaring quite like a theatre-family. And that is the very crux of the reason I keep coming back to the stage because despite my shortcomings, misgivings and severe stage-fright, I can feel that warmth if even for a short moment and that is why I do and will keep doing this again, and again, and again, and again…
Come see Danny in Nice Work. Tickets available now!
This article appeared in The State’s The Extra on Nov. 18. As we approach a new year, we thought it would be a great time to share it on our website.
Town Theatre has delighted audiences for 96 years
Each year, 30,000 people walk through the front doors with the teal awning at 1012 Sumter Street. Actors coming to rehearsal, backstage crew showing up to provide assistance in set choreography, youth of all ages bustling in for weekly classes and, of course, folks who just want to sit down and enjoy a great show. And, for the past 96 years (and counting), Town Theatre’s doors have been open to those in the Midlands and beyond. Town Theatre is the oldest continuously operating community theatre in the nation. Founded in 1919, Town is proud of its role to provide quality, live, family-oriented community theatre as well as to offer the foundation for those who wish to participate on or backstage. Each year Town produces five or six main stage productions from September to May; a major summer musical; two youth theatre productions; a full spectrum of summer camps as well as a mixture of other events.
“The arts are alive and well in Columbia and Town Theatre is proud to have been in the center of it all,” says board president Mary Lynn Barnette. Yet, Town Theatre leadership knows that it cannot rely on its longevity alone. “While we are so grateful for our large membership roster, many of whom have been with us for years, we know that we have to keep providing quality entertainment not only to keep them, but also to entice new patrons,” said Barnette. Whether it is mounting a production that has never been seen on a local community theatre stage (like last summer’s Mary Poppins) or finding ways to expand on Town’s already “filled to the brim” youth arts programming, the theatre enjoys the challenges of filling seats.
Shannon Willis Scruggs has been a part of Town for more than 30 years as a performer, director and now in the role of theatre management taking over the position of Executive Director after leading the SC Bar Foundation for ten years. “I remember when Town turned 80 and thought, ‘wow — what a ride this has been.’ Now that we’re getting ready to turn a full century, I am beyond excited at the things we have in store!”
Dolly Parton says that singing, entertaining and writing is her way of channeling her feelings and her thoughts, not just her own, but the things that she sees and the people she loves. She writes, “My head would explode if I didn’t get all of this stuff out!” This is the perfect description of how I feel about my love for music, why I create, the reason I keep singing and why I can’t wait to step on that stage. The excitement is intense, the familiar butterflies and my heart pounding like it’s about to leap from my chest. I’m about to do the thing that I live for, that makes me happier than any other thing. I’m about to do what makes me, me. I can hear the buzz of 1,700 people. The audience at the famous Celebrity Theater is just as excited as we are. It’s opening day at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival. Our 18 member cast is about to bring to life a very unique version of A Christmas Carol for the very first time. I can’t believe I’m originating the role of Fan and Belinda Cratchit here. We are going to sing seven brand-new songs written by Dolly herself. I can hear the music for my solo and then I hear Dolly’s beautiful words coming from me. I’m thinking this is crazy. This is a dream. How did I get here?
That is what I was feeling two years ago and now I am experiencing my third Christmas here in the great Smoky Mountains. I just picked up my employee tickets for the private screening premier of Dolly’s new movie, Coat of Many Colors. I’m very excited to see it. The more I learn about Dolly, the more I feel we were a lot alike as kids. I would sing, dance, and entertain for anyone that would listen. I loved to teach myself to play instruments and write songs and cast my friends in my plays. Like her, I simply loved anything, everything, all things musical. It’s always been more than my passion, it’s my identity. It’s just who I am. When I read about Dolly as a child, she says the same kind of things.
When I was nine years old Shannon Willis Scruggs and Christopher McCroskey took a chance on a very inexperienced little kid and cast me as Jemima in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Town Theatre. That one chance changed the way I saw the world for good. It changed the course of my life and instilled a love for musical theatre in me that burns bright to this very day. I’ve since had the opportunity to do many shows at Town Theatre. Before rehearsals for each show, my Mom would tell me to soak up the other actors around me like a sponge. And that’s exactly what I did. I was blessed to learn from the very best actors and directors around. Such professionals as Shannon Willis Scruggs, Christopher McCroskey, Andy Nyland, Jamie Carr Harrington, Agnes Babb, Christy Shealy Mills, Rob Sprankle, Frank Thompson, Shelby Sessler and so many more. I have even been given the opportunity to tech backstage with Danny Harrington ~ one of the best. These people are my teachers and the Town Theatre stage is my classroom. I’ve taken many classes since Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but nothing has helped me or prepared me for what I’m doing now, more than the generous actors at Town. I will never be able to repay them for what they’ve done for me; what they keep doing. I realize that I have been truly blessed.
Every kid’s dream would be to do what you love in a theme park. Working at Dollywood is so surreal. During The Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival here, six different musicals all run at the same time. Each are newly arranged or originally written by Dolly and other artists from Nashville. Shows like Oh Holy Night, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Christmas in the Smokies and others run in separate theaters back dropped by 4 million dazzling multi-colored lights and hundreds of gorgeous trees and decorations. There are five roller coasters, more than in any other park in the world, with number six currently being built. You can smell traditional Christmas dinner cooking in the air and hear the laughter of children as they roast marshmallows and S ‘mores. You can hang out with Rudolph and friends at the Holly Jolly Junction and even see the big guy himself, Mr. Claus. From the lyrics of one of Dolly’s songs, it’s a hometown country Christmas. I think the park captures the essence of the holiday season. It’s not just about the beautiful trees and lights but about love and celebrating the traditional true meaning of Christmas. The park has won The Association of Amusement Park and Attractions coveted Golden Ticket Award for Best Holiday Event 8 years running. We always win Best Food and Friendliest Park and I just heard that our show, A Christmas Carol, has won Best Show for the second year. Our show uses state-of-the-art holographic technology to place Dolly and two other actors onstage as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The show marks the very first time that this kind of technology has been used in a theme park anywhere in the world. After our Season concludes, I will have been in almost 500 shows; this year for the first time being cast as Belle, Scrooge’s fiancée. It’s a full-time adult role and I have a swing to give me a rest and a few days off. I’m doing traditional home school this year for the first time. It’s all hard to keep up with, but when it’s your dream you make it work. My Mom and Dad have made so many sacrifices to allow me to fulfill these dreams. My blessings really are endless and to be able to celebrate them for Christmas at Dollywood each year is just incredible.
I really don’t know where my love for all things musical will take me. But I do know that when I look back, I’ll think of all the fun, encouragement and education I got at Town Theatre. If you get a chance, look for my plaque on the wall at Town. Mom and Dad bought it for me after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang closed. It says, “This is where it all started.” And you know what? It sure was!