The 2020-2021 season is the 43rd season of action, ambition, and accomplishment for the Starkville Community Theatre. Sitting in the eighty-nine-seat audience at the Playhouse on Main, one can almost hear the history that has been -and still is - SCT. Over one hundred productions - dramas, comedies, skits, one-acts, musicals, and special events - have been enacted by the Players of SCT over the past 40 years, and the community support for these players is as strong today as it has ever been.
The Starkville Community Theatre was formed in 1978 to provide for the cultural and educational enhancement of the citizens of Starkville and the surrounding areas. Through theatrical productions (Damn Yankees, Blithe Spirit, Steel Magnolias, Jake's Women, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Smoke on the Mountain, Nunsense, The Boys Next Door, and Rumors, to name a few) and workshops for both adults and children (directors' workshops, Project P.L.A.Y.), our community theatre makes a valuable contribution to the entire community by providing an outlet for creative expression.
Theatre exists because of the continued need for people to have an outlet for creativity and for the desire to participate in the "unreal-real" world of imagination. One goes to the theatre for entertainment or education or, as is often the case with community theatre, to support friends and family members in their acting endeavors.
This need for creativity caused Jan Zeppelin, in 1978, to place a notice in the Starkville Daily News announcing an interest meeting for creating a community theatre.
"I went to the Chamber of Commerce and met with its director," says Zeppelin. "She spoke with their Board, and they agreed Starkville needed a community theatre." Around fifty people attended that initial meeting, and thus Starkville Community Theatre was born!
The first officers of the group were Bob Wolverton (elected president), Larry Jones, Bob Anderson, John Wells, and Zeppelin. A charter was drawn up, by-laws were established, and SCT was all set to begin.
"Because of such initial excitement, we decided we couldn't wait until the fall to put on our first show," Zeppelin remembers, "so we did one that summer."
Directed by Bob Anderson and held at the Ramada Inn, SCT's first production was Bob Randall's 6 Rms Riv Vu featuring the cast of Donna Burch, Roger Culbertson, Frank Rullan, Carolyn Katz, and John Wells. Sets and stage were built and moved in; lights were hung and numerous other details were taken into account.
SCT was definitely ambitious. Following 6 Rms Riv Vu, we produced You Can't Take it With You in the building that formerly housed Fred's Dollar Store. John Graef directed the production, and it featured Chester McKee, Carla Weaver, Charles Thomas, Inez Thomas, Bob Wolverton, and Harriet Mastin. Close on its heels came SCT's third production, the musical Little Mary Sunshine, directed by Bob Anderson and Guy Hargrove and featuring a large cast of newcomers.
"We scrounged in the beginning years, and we put on some good shows…and some not-so-good shows," Zeppelin says. "Lordy, did we make do! But we had a great time."
In the early years, SCT solicited the use of various facilities throughout the Starkville area. They performed, in addition to the Ramada Inn and the old Fred's Dollar Store, at Starkville's Greensboro Center and at Mississippi State University's School of veterinary medicine auditorium and McComas Hall, among others.
In 1995, however, after realizing how practically impossible it had become scheduling SCT activities due to no permanent location, the theatre company bought the Katz building at 108 East Main Street. After years of moving from facility to facility, SCT finally had a home of its own. Almost immediately, the loyal volunteers of SCT began renovating their new building by demolishing walls, erecting new ones, installing seats, building a stage, and transforming the formal retail shop into a wonderful space for the Starkville Community Theatre for many years to come.
In 1999, after years of storing materials, props, costumes, furniture, and a spate of other theatre paraphernalia upstairs above the box office, lobby, and theatre, volunteers once again banded together to clean and to renovate this upstairs area in order to better utilize the space. Windows opened. Trash was taken out. Floors were swept and cleaned. Numerous props, dishes, and costumes were sorted, stored, or discarded. (Spiders were spotted and avoided!!)
After the dust settled, a great open space was ready for renovation. Painters and carpenters were hired to craft and install new walls, a kitchenette, a storage closet, and a costume shop. SCT has put the open area that remains to use for banquets, opening-night parties, business meetings, rehearsals, and auditions.
In 2004 we completed an addition onto the rear of the building. This addition houses a shop for set construction, more storage room, and a dressing room and restroom for the actors. And 11 years later, in August of 2015, we replaced the seats and carpet giving the auditorium a brand new look.
In March of 2016, SCT celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first production in the Playhouse on Main. Organized by our newly hired Chief Administrative Officer Gabe Smith, who became the first paid employee of SCT in July 2015, the evening included readings from several shows that have been staged at the Playhouse and was a wonderful reflection on our continued growth.
"Drama expresses our lives," Zeppelin said in the early days of SCT. "It [takes] the entire community."
Jan Zeppelin's vision and dream for the Starkville Community Theatre lives on at the Playhouse on Main. And the support, the excitement, and the imagination that is community theatre flourishes still. Won't you join us?