The City Theatre of Independence, the Encore Theatre of Independence and the Children's Performing Theatre are on a mission: to make the community aware there's another type of year-around entertainment available in “The Queen City of the Trails” providing fun for the entire family.
“We have a task force committee that is looking into developing a five-year program, so we are in the process of doing that,” says Joyce Stone, president of City Theatre, a nonprofit organization founded in 1980 to provide an equal opportunity for individuals to actively participate and learn about live theater production and to provide a live entertainment experience for theater patrons.
In a recent interview with Joyce Ann Manning, Encore Theatre president, Stone notes City Theatre recently rewrote its charter, adding “new things so that we can reach out to the community. Yeah, we realize we need to do some aggressive efforts, so we are going to do that. Personally, it is going to take a little bit of time,”she says, adding: “We are considering rebranding and putting on a new face, but that is going to be for next year. We are just trying to put all our thoughts into practice now and organizing them so we can start moving forward.”
As for Manning, she hopes the five-year program will get more people involved.
“I would think (Encore Theatre) would like to get a larger audience base, if we can. And we are both looking at reorganization and going forward with more publicity. We, too, are trying to involve more seniors in the theater and help us to expand.”
Formed by a local group of live-theater enthusiasts, City Theatre has become a beacon since debuting 38 years ago with Neil Simon's “Plaza Suites,” performed in the cozy 150-seat Powerhouse Theatre in the Roger T. Sermon Community Center.
“I believe (City Theatre) performed seven shows the first year,” Manning recalls, explaining an increased interest in senior participation eventually led to forming Encore Theatre in 1987. “We pick up a lot of people from City Theatre as they grow older and want to continue, but don't want to do quite as serious plays as City Theater.”
What's in store for theatergoers in the upcoming 2017-18 season is a total of 10 productions performed by the three theatrical entities. City Theatre is presenting five, Encore and Children's theaters are doing two each and Encore and Children's team up for a joint performance.
The public also can expect to pay $2 more this season to attend City Theatre. Individual ticket prices are $15 for the public and $13 for seniors; season tickets are $44 for seniors and $48 for others. They can be purchased from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Aug. 19, at an open house at the Sermon Center, Truman and Noland roads.
“Harvey” opens City Theatre's 38th season on Sept. 7. Other performances are Sept. 8-9 and Sept. 15-16. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. except for the Sunday dinner show that begins at 2 p.m.
Other upcoming shows are “Wait Until Dark,” Nov. 2-4 , 10-12; “The Glass Menagerie,” Jan. 11-13, 19-21; “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, April 5-7, 12-14; Kitchen Witches, May 31 and June 1- 2, 8-10.
The Encore Theatre begins in March 2018 with “Two Witches NoWaiting.” Performance dates for the second show, which has not been announced, is scheduled Oct. 1-3, 8-10. Ticket prices will be increased a dollar. Season tickets are available.
The Children's Performing Theatre, which works with youngsters 5-15, was created in 1990 and will team up with Encore to present “Aladdin” Dec. 1-3, 8-10. The spring show, “Alice in Wonderland,” will be presented March 2-4, 9-11.
Playwrights from all over will be in Independence July 27-30 participating in the Playwrights Festival, a City Theatre fundraiser. Playwrights will be showcasing 10-to-15 minute original plays never before produced or put on stage. The competition begin at 8 p.m. in the Powerhouse Theatre. Tickets are $10, available at the door.
“The festival offers an evening of drama and comedy, draws new actors who have never been on stage before, new directors who have never directed before and backstage people who are new to the backstage. ... It makes for a nice evening,” Stone says.
City Theatre closes out its season with a banquet and entertainment at 6:30 p.m., July 22, at the Sermon Center, where actors and actresses receive awards for their acting achievements.
As for the legacy of the City Theater, Stone replies, “It's legacy is that we offered live, good-quality entertainment and encouraged the community to come and join the fun, and our attempt to give back to the community and encourage young people to continue with live entertainment.”
And what's ahead for the theatrical community?
“We've decided we are all going to try to support one another through the Sermon Center. In other words, Encore will support City, City will support Encore and the two of us will support Children's.”
• Encore Theater ends their season in October with the Play; "Two Witches, No Waiting." Performance dates are Oct. 6-7-8 and Oct. 13-14-15.
• City Theater begins their season with "Harvey." Performance dates are Sept. 7-8 and 9. The Dinner Show is at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 9. Their next three performances of "Harvey" will be Sept. 15-16-17.
-- Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.