Ron Hayes was a charter member of the theatre and volunteered for 40 years, spending countless hours on stage, backstage and as director. Jacque joined the theatre soon after she moved to Okeechobee, and later, the couple were married.
When the couple retired from theatre, a group of regular cast and crew decided they did not want to let the theatre die and agreed to work together to keep it going.
Things did not work out quite as planned with covid shutting everything down after the new team’s first performance. Some of the members moved away. Some no longer had time to commit to theatre.
After nearly two years, the curtains finally opened again at the Okeechobee Community Theatre with the production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," and the show went off without a hitch. James Garner has served as director of each show since Ron and Jacque Hayes retired and enjoys doing that but found himself doing more than he bargained for.
According to Laura Murray, who now serves as president of the board, Garner sent out a call for help, letting the regulars know he needed them to step in and take some of the load off his shoulders.
Murray said she felt bad when she realized they had left it all up to him. “We were all so used to Ron and Jacque doing everything, and when James jumped in and started doing everything, we just let it happen.”
Murray told the group she was willing to be president. She has a lot of experience with organization and enjoys it. Jane Robards, vice-president, stepped in to take over managing the front of the house, publicity and ticket sales. Joey Marcinek and Katherine Hardy, secretary, were both interested in doing some directing. Grace Morgan and Murray were both interested in stage managing. For the production they are working on now, Hardy is acting as assistant director and plans to direct again soon. Tina Welborn and Murray both serve as light technicians as needed.
Between them, they lessened the load for Garner, and the team works together like a well-oiled machine.
The theatre is now an official 501 (C) (3) with a board of nine members — Murray, Garner, Hardy, Marcinek, Morgan, Tom Murray, Robards, Welborn and Laurie Garner.
They are in the process of developing a production manual so as people come in to do the different jobs, they know exactly what is expected of them. They now have production meetings regularly and have a production team for each show — director, costume design, sound, lighting, etc. — all working closely with the director to bring his or her vision to life. “We meet after the Sunday rehearsals to see where we are in getting things done," Murray explained.
It is the board’s goal to have multiple people capable of running every aspect of a production so no one person has to do it every single time.
They are looking for artists, builders, stage managers, grant writers, people to make costumes and props, people to work backstage, people to run sound equipment and lights. If you think you might like to learn to do any of these things, look for the Okeechobee Community Theatre on Facebook.
When you become a part of the community theatre, it’s not just about the production. It’s also about the friends you make. A teacher works side by side with an electrician, who he might never have met if it weren’t for the theatre.
It’s also about having an outlet for creativity. Where else is there a need to paint multiple murals on canvas several times a year? Where else would someone ask you if you could think of a way to make a turkey that could be stabbed with a knife several times during each performance and still look like a turkey afterward? Where else would someone ask you to make a giant ham costume for a little girl to wear using no pattern? It’s about the laughter that goes on even when there is no audience. If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, look for them on Facebook to find out what is happening next.
In 2022, the theatre brought back season tickets and many fans were thrilled to snap them up. To purchase your tickets, you can either visit their website at okeechobeecommunitytheatre.com or go in person to Okeechobee Main Street at 111 N.E. Second Street. Finishing up this season, the cast will be performing Play On! a comedy by Rick Abbot. The performances will be on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons from March 17 through April 1.
Ron Hayes passed away in October of 2022.