OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Community Theatre is making a comeback after having to cancel their shows last season due to COVID-19. James Garner, who stepped up to take leadership of the theatre after Ron and Jacque Hayes retired at the close of the 2018 season said they have two shows planned this year, Arsenic and Old Lace and A Few Good Men.
The community theatre is now a non-profit and Garner believes it was the best decision they ever made.
The theatre group plans to use some of the money they have saved to put in a new sound system at the auditorium.
“We want to do it so we can stop using individual mics,” said Garner. “When we did See How They Run, nine people wore microphones, and it seemed like every performance at least one would have some kind of a problem. Somebody’s mic would go off. Somebody’s mic would mess up. Somebody’s mic would squeal. It was a nightmare.” They are considering putting condenser mics at the top of the stage and some on the floor. If all goes as planned, they could do the show without having to mic anyone. Garner said he would also like to put in new speakers. “I think those speakers have been in there since the ’80s.”
Garner said he would love to see some new faces in the theatre. His goal is to have some high school students join the group so they can be trained in lighting and sound, set construction, costuming and as back stage crew.
“I’m not sure how long I will want to keep doing this myself,” said Garner. “We need some young people who would carry it forward after we are gone. It would be great if we found some young people interested in directing. I’d be glad to train someone if they were willing to invest the time into it. I’d love to turn this over to someone younger one day, so they can give it a new vision."
In addition to the behind the scenes work, they also need people who are interested in being on the stage.
“Surprisingly, we have more men than women coming out to audition in recent years. We need more women. There is always a need for younger people on stage as well. Our acting pool has gotten smaller and smaller over the years.”
When Ron and Jacque Hayes were in charge of the theatre, they did everything themselves. “I have no idea how they did what they did, but they always pulled it off,” said Garner. He would like to create production teams, so one or two people are not responsible for every show, every time. “We really need to create a community here. "
One of the biggest problems Garner has noticed is that so many people do not even realize there is a community theatre in Okeechobee. “The shows have been advertised in the newspaper and by flyers hung up around town for the last 42 years, but still 80% of the people you run into say they didn’t know it existed.”
Eventually, the group would like to begin doing acting workshops and drama camps or workshops for children during the summer. “I’d love to build up a children’s theatre and maybe host some dinner theaters some day.”
Tentatively, the shows this fall are scheduled for October 8, 9 and 15, 16 plus an extra show on the 22. Due to COVID, they plan to sell fewer tickets and spread the seats out a little more this year. Auditions will take place in August.
If you are interested in becoming involved in the theatre in any way, contact Garner either on the Okeechobee Community Theatre Facebook page or through their website okeechobeecommunitytheatre.com. You can also go to the auditions in August to let them know you want to help.
Community service hours are available for high school students.