Since 1977, Paris Community Theatre has been staging amateur productions with all the polish of a professional troupe, and this year has been no exception.
“Things are going good,” said Paris Community Theatre president Tim Wood, a high school acting instructor and long-time officer and performer at PCT. “We’ve had a real successful year. We are doing all right financially, due to some good bookkeeping and keeping better track of our resources over the course of the year, and we’ve had good houses for most of the five shows this year. Our latest fundraiser, a murder mystery evening, raised right at $5,000, and our concessions sales have been great. It’s a good money maker.”
During the 2018-19 year, Paris Community Theatre has been experimenting with its schedule and how it offers its tickets to the public.
“We are offering more variety in the schedule these days,” Wood said. “More options. We looked at the numbers and decided some shows can bear a longer run and others cannot. Musicals are very popular and can draw audiences to more shows per run. Other shows we decided to use shorter runs, Thursday through Sunday for one week only, to draw more audiences per show. It’s worked very well.”
Wood said fewer show dates mean more seats are filled on each night the show is open, and a bigger audience always makes for a better show.
“The cast is better when the audience is full,” he said. “With some shows — taking into account the cost of the utilities and the royalties paid on the show — if we perform for less than 50 people, it can actually cost us money.”
Wood said the board also is contemplating an increase in ticket prices for next year, but promises that season ticket-holders will be grandfathered on the price.
Another experiment in place this last year was the structure of the children’s theatre program.
Paris Community Theatre’s Children’s Theatre program used a curriculum from Disney Junior to prepare students for one stage production of “The Lion King Jr.,” and Wood said he was very proud of the kids’ efforts and the results.
“Working toward one show integrated all of the children’s theatre classes into one program,” he said. “The kids were more involved in all aspects of the show, from the lines to the movement and choreography, costumes and .props and set design. It was like a little repertory theatre. Disney sent lesson planners for the classrooms, design specs for sets and costumes and recordings of the music. The kids learned lines, but they also learned how to make masks and other stagecraft. It gave them ownership in the productions.”
Wood said he was impressed by the fact that given the opportunity to learn about the technical side of theatrical, a number of Paris Community Theatre’s students have expressed an interest in continuing to learn about what goes on backstage in a show and foundation that bodes well for future productions.
The experiments will continue into the 2019-20 season, Wood said, with next year’s Children’s Theatre expected to be built around the Disney Junior production of “Frozen.”
The last board meeting of the 2018-19 season will take place in June with election of new board members expected. The slate of plays on the main stage of the Plaza Theater will include “Dearly Departed,” “Noises Off,” an all-adult staging of “The Wizard of Oz,” a Christmas-themed musical revue, “Plaza Suite,” in memory of the recently deceased Neil Simon, and “Cabaret.”
This summer, as part of its Off-Plaza program, Paris Community Theatre plans to present an updated version of “The Vagina Monologues,” with proceeds to benefit women’s shelters and services. “Baby With the Bathwater,” another Off-Plaza production, is also tentatively slated for next season.
Wood said he is gratified Paris Community Theatre is beginning to see a new demographic in its audience.
“What I see is couples in their late 20s and early 30s coming out to our shows and to our fundraisers,” he said. “We have a varied community and we have to offer a varied program of entertainment and I think we are much better at that than we have been in a long time.”