From this history alone, a non-fiction script could easily be written. Community theater’s challenges, trials, surprises and triumphs from the mid-1920s through today could be woven into a thrilling plot all its own.
When you think of all the plays, musicals and children’s shows on its various stages and all of the people who have walked the boards … it’s a story that must be told!
Based on the Tony Awards format, the Randy Awards is a time to recognize volunteers (those who sewed, painted, scavenged for props, built sets and more) who helped deliver the playwrights’ words from the page to the stage. It is a time to honor the surprised and excited recipients of the trophies as they step up to the stage, and to be entertained by the wit of the presenters.
This year, it is a time for a change in the voting: CAST season ticket holders received ballots and were asked to vote on actor/actress winners, providing that the voters had seen all four productions last season. An award is also presented by the board president, Debby Mathews, and the artistic director, Kim Dobbs.
Kim Davenport is serving as chairperson of the event. Lolly Payne and Scott Whitney are the emcees. The appropriate dress is semi-formal to formal wear. Also, a silent auction will be held. Items included will be a pair of gold earrings from Couch’s Jewelers and four Alabama Shakespeare Festival tickets to the current season’s “The Nanta Cooking Show,” which runs July 11-15, and “Putnam County Spelling Bee,” presented Aug. 10-Sept. 2.
Trophies bearing the comedy and tragedy masks are called “Randys” in honor of CAST founder and playwright Randy Hall, who was a journalist and arts critic for The Anniston Star. Printed interviews with Hall reveal that he had a strong interest in writing for the theater since the age of 12. Once he saw “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and later, “The Boyfriend,” both by Town& Gown Theatre in Birmingham, he resolved to be a playwright and actively developed his interest. The writer’s colorful and quirky characters were a favorite point of discussion by his patrons because these characters often reminded them of people they knew in Anniston.
But Hall focused on the total theme of his works. “My plays are about the human heart,” was his usual response.
Hall had at least eight plays produced in this area, some of which have been presented around the country.
The evening’s fanfare builds toward its peak when the Edel Y. Ayers Award, an engraved silver bowl, is presented by Phil Sanguinetti to the individual who has gone far beyond the regular tasks in making the shows happen. Mrs. Ayers is remembered for organizing the first Little Theatre in Anniston with the help of the Players’ Guild, a core of residents actively interested in theater.
The first playhouse was in the basement of the Radio Building on Noble Street where actors in rehearsal were warmed on cold nights by heat from a wood stove; then, the curtain rose “with a prayer,” as the history states, on the first play, “The Dover Road” in 1927 in the old Anniston High School (where Piggly-Wiggly is now). And, according to records, 600 people attended. This marked the official start of community theater in Anniston.
Revisiting the challenges in CAST’s last season’s plays gives insight into volunteers’ busy schedule at CAST.
“In ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,’ getting the word out that we were doing this delightful musical instead of the advertised play was difficult,” Dobbs said. “Consequently, many patrons missed this show. As co-director/choreographer, it was a test to direct only four actors, each of whom represented 19 characters.”
In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Dobbs said, presenting all performers on stage at once in the George Bailey living room took lots of planning. This was the largest cast (43 actors) Dobbs had directed for CAST. Also, an effort was made to include as many children as possible by adding a Bedford Falls Holiday Extravaganza before each act.
In “The Nerd,” Dobbs added, the challenge was having set designer Brooke Hunter fill in for Howard Johnson (who was on a world tour) as Mr. Waldgrave for half of the rehearsal period. There was a lot of physical comedy in this farce, and intricate blocking rehearsal was imperative for safety. So, said Dobbs, Brooke was Howard and then Howard was Brooke and no actors were injured.
Presenting a drama is always challenging, but presenting Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in the Bible Belt was sensitive, and the director devoted a lot of thought as to what was the proper way to honor the playwright and engage the audience.
“And presenting three acts in two acts is tricky, but I felt it prudent to make that decision,” Dobbs said.
Everyone is invited to the 7th Annual Randy Awards on Thursday, June 28, at Classic on Noble. The doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person for the meal and awards. Reservations must be made by June 20 by calling event chairperson Kimberley Davenport at 256-405-8597 or the CAST office at 256-820-2278.
General auditions for CAST’s next season are at 7 p.m. June 18 and 2 p.m. June 23 at First Presbyterian Church in Anniston in the Fellowship Hall. Those auditioning for the first time are asked to bring a recent photo headshot. Singers and dancers may bring a short prepared piece and their own accompaniment, or perform without accompaniment. A piano and CD player will be provided. Dance routines will be choreographed on site by the director. Actors may also bring a short monologue (one minute) but will be asked to read from the production’s script.
The season is as follows:
• “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” by Stephen Sondheim and Larry Gelbart (musical comedy), Sept. 13-23
• “A Christmas Carol” (re-telling of Charles Dickens’ classic seasonal favorite story), Nov. 23-Dec. 2
• “Private Lives,” a farce by Noel Coward, Feb. 7-17, 2013
• “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the classic Shakespearean comedy, May 2-12, 2013.
Call 256-820-CAST for more information.