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Depot Players are a model for community theatre

Published 10:15am Monday, February 25, 2013

I recently overheard someone marveling at the success of Wetumpka’s Depot Players – and bemoaning the fact that their own community “can’t get anyone but elderly people interested” in theatre. I wasn’t intentionally eavesdropping; they were speaking at a carrying volume. I didn’t know them and wasn’t about to boldly enter their conversation, so I simply listened.
My mind was rapidly leaping from one thing to another and tallying up the points I would have shared with them if I had been asked about the topic. Admittedly, I don’t know all of the efforts and plans that were vital to the Depot Players’ success, but I can at least make an educated guess at some of them.
There have been many talented, dedicated and creative folks through the group’s history who “made things happen.” I do know they were willing to work hard, beg for sponsors and funding and practice their art in sometimes less than ideal conditions.
The Players have always been willing to welcome and embrace new people and new ideas and happily absorb those into their identity. Constant growth and change is part of the troupe’s identity.
But, as an observer, the one thing that appears to me to have tied it all together and kept things moving continually forward is the time and devotion spent on young people. Many of the children and teens who were part of the “Junior Depot Theatre” kept coming back, or they left and returned – and they told their friends.
These days, the Players have a summer theatre camp and performance, plus a Christmas show geared primarily toward youthful actors. All of those efforts give the Players deep roots among a variety of ages – from those too young to drive to others old enough to collect Social Security.
And, really, if you think about it, the best way to make sure something endures and thrives is to attract the interest of a younger generation and teach them all you know about it. Their enthusiasm will keep it going and likely improve on it.
The Millbrook Community Theatre is following the same model as the Depot Theatre. The group stages some productions which require young actors and hosts a theatre camp during the summer. The formula seems to be working for them, too.
Sometimes you just have to be able to see that an idea is successful, figure out why and go for it.
Until next week …

Peggy Blackburn is managing editor of The Wetumpka Her­ald and Elmore County Weekend. She can be reached at 334-567-7811. Her email address is peggy.blackburn@TheWetumpkaHerald.com.

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