ROCKINGHAM —2016 marks the 40th year the Richmond Community Theatre has been in existence, and Director Shelly Walker wants to start it off with some nostalgia.
“We are starting off the 40th anniversary with the Richmond Community Theatre Day,” said Walker. “Back in the year where the theater was celebrating its 25th anniversary, Gene McLaurin, who was the mayor, designated Sept. 8 as Richmond Community Theatre Day. So we’re using that day as a big kick off celebration.”
Walker said an outdoor festivity will take place at 7 p.m. at Cole Plaza, and the reasoning for the venue was she’s hoping there will be too many people participating to fit in the 144 seats that fill the theater.
“When you look around the theater and you see these collages of 40 years of people who have participated in some way or another, there is no way that we could hold of these people in this building, which is really phenomenal,” she said. “We went through some pains to see if we could invite everyone personally, and then we got afraid that we would leave someone out. So we started building a list of people, trying to find addresses, trying to find telephone numbers and finally we decided we would, instead, do a call through the media and through social media and word of mouth because that’s always been the greatest way to get people to come in to see our productions.”
Walker and the theater’s board of directors have been asking former participants who took part in an adult show, children’s show, crew member or board member to show up on Sept. 8. She said anyone who has contributed over the past 40 years is invited. Special 40th anniversary T-shirts will handed out to show appreciation and gratitude, she added.
“We’re going to be recognizing all of the those people,” said Walker. “We’re also going to be recognizing and thanking the city council and the county commissioners for their continued support, because we fully recognize and appreciate the fact that this community theater would not be here if we did not have community leaders who understood the importance of the arts in our community. And for that, we’re so grateful. The community leaders are a huge part of the reason why we’re here today.”
She’s also hoping that her predecessor, David Ariel, will be able to come to allow those he directed and worked with for 30 years to come back and support him.
“I’ve put the word out, and I’m really hoping that David will come and join us,” Walker said. “He’s another huge reason why this theater is here. He was the backbone for so long. It’s a phenomenal gift to this community that he gave through his service for 30 years.”
After celebrating the past, Walker wants the theater to look towards the future and will hold an open house on Sept. 24 to get some new people through the doors.
“We always need new people who are interested in participating and volunteering in any way, shape or form that people are interested in,” she said.
“Being on stage is only a small part of what it is that we do here,” Walker added. “There’s all of the backstage stuff, but there’s also things like ushering, things like helping us get the word out to community members. There’s a ton of artistic things, either it being sewing costumes or stage painting or gathering props for the plays. There’s so many different ways that people can get plugged in and be a part of the theater.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.