News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

September 7, 2010

MS. TAKES: Show about Terre Haute missed big attraction

TERRE HAUTE — How could they have missed it?

My Best Friend and I grabbed a glass of iced tea and a handful of pretzels and settled down last week to watch a program about Terre Haute. This is a city we became part of more than 50 years ago, and have learned to love through good times and bad.

On the whole, we were delighted to see Terre Haute portrayed in a positive light, but I kept waiting for comment about Community Theatre’s contribution to local arts. It never came.

Lauded were the Sheldon Swope Museum, the Terre Haute Symphony, the as-yet-unopened Children’s Museum, Blues at the Crossroads, but still we waited in vain for mention of CT. Even the history of local brothels – complete with a map to locate them – was deemed more important than highlighting one of the oldest community theaters in Indiana and, I believe, the only such group to own its own theater building.

Since the program didn’t consider it worthy of mention, permit me.

Community Theatre is now 84 years old. At first plays were presented at Indiana State Laboratory School and also in the Hippodrome Theatre, now owned by the Scottish Rite. When a small neighborhood cinema on South 25th Street came up for sale, the amateur company bought the building and added a backstage area designed by local architect Juliet Peddle.

In the years since, CT has funded two major additions: a warehouse where sets can be constructed and props and costumes stored, and, more recently, an enlarged lobby and box office area which included a “green room.” The latter has been lighted – a volunteer labor – and is used as a more intimate theater for productions not well suited to the main stage. This Oakley Theatre has been successful in grooming new talent for the CT program.

All this is the work of volunteers. There is, or was, a paid janitor and also a union projectionist when CT ran a program of films in addition to the season schedule of five plays. Except for that, it is all volunteer time, effort and money. As the CT motto has it, “Community Theatre, where everyone plays a part.”

I know there is a lot going on in our city and it is easy to miss some of the good stuff, but CT seems more worthy of mention than the brothels of bygone days.

How could they have missed it?

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Liz Ciancone
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