Community Theater Would Add To Cultural Life

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We watched the Zane Grey Mystery Theater come to life during Payson's 125th Anniversary celebration and realized that the town is missing a necessary piece of the cultural pie:

Community theater.

The recent clever mystery show was written by area resident Kathleen Kelly.

Talented local actors, with experience in community theater, including high school students Lannie Oszewski and Zachary Horsley, made the time to practice for six weeks.

The show had few props and no painted backdrop to add ambience.

The actors made these things unnecessary.

Even with the chilly weather against them that Saturday evening in Green Valley Park, the actors were able to engage their audience.

Beginning with at least the 1950s, theater was the purview of the women of this land who were the movers and shakers of their time in Payson.

Pat Cline and Elaine Drorbaugh have both spoken fondly of productions they were involved in that raised money for projects, such as the Womans Club, Payson library and starting a local hospital.

The actors had fun, and plays were certainly an event the community turned out to see.

Children's musical theater began in 1999 with "Johnny Appleseed" and ended in 2003 with children presenting small theatrical performances during summer "Kids College."

The Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library, in cooperation with Pine-Strawberry School, has begun a theater program.

Drama classes have been a staple of curricula at Payson High School for more than a decade.

Yet, students who would like more opportunity to perform while they are in high school or continue performing after graduation must look further afield than their hometown for auditions and venues.

One of our staff reporters recalls attending a play in about 1998. Actors took to the stage in "The Black Box," now called "the Studio Theater," on the PHS campus. It was all adults performing.

In 2002, Sawmill Theatres invited the public to be part of a focus group, as they considered presenting live entertainment.

Apparently, nothing came of those discussions. None of the six theaters have a raised stage, although the two biggest might have adequate floor space to stage a small show with few props.

Periodically Payson Parks and Recreation hosts a bus down to the Valley to take in a show, most recently at The Broadway Palm.

It would be nice to hear of the reverse, a tour bus coming up to see players of the Rim Country put on a melodrama, a contemporary play, a vaudeville reprisal or a Shakespearean classic.

Globe citizens petitioned their city council and eventually were able to have the empty, dilapidated courthouse turned over to them.

Now the old courthouse is the heart of the town for plays, art and other shows.

What might it take to turn some wonderful old building, maybe on Main Street, into a theater?

We think it will take people with passion, time and commitment to theater, actors, fund-raisers and people with business acumen.

More than that, it will take a town behind them.

There have been intermittent rumors that conversations here and there have taken place about the need for community theater in Payson.

We hope the spark that appears to be lit will be fanned to flame by passionate people who will make plans to turn on the spotlight and get on with a show, or two or three or four.

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