Okeechobee Community Theatre directors retire

OKEECHOBEE — After dedicating 40 years of their lives to the Okeechobee Community Theatre (OCT), Ron and Jacque Hayes have officially retired and passed the baton to some of the OCT veterans. Mr. Hayes was a charter member of the OCT when it was founded in 1979 and took over completely the following year. His wife, Jacque, joined him as a member of the OCT soon after she moved to Okeechobee.

In 40 years, there have been 87 different shows, 34 of them musicals, performed on that stage. Each show calls for about nine weeks of rehearsing three nights a week, two to three hours per night. The shows each involve about 15 hours of performance time, and there is the time it takes to memorize lines, put on makeup, etc.

In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Hayes had to choose a show, hold auditions and then spend hours matching people up to get the perfect cast. Then they had to plan costumes and props and build sets and choreograph dances and plot every movement across the stage, set the lights, set the sound system, make the programs, make the tickets, sell the tickets, promote the play, direct the play, direct the stage crew, etc. As you might imagine, this can be tiring after 40 years, and they are ready to do some relaxing and just enjoy watching the shows, although they have said they are willing to help as needed.

Rather than try to have one or two people do everything, a committee has been formed to keep the OCT running smoothly. Kara DePasquale, who not only has performed on the OCT stages several times in recent years but has also served as stage manager, will now serve as the OCT’s business director. Jane Kaufman, who has been in countless OCT productions, will serve as the theatre’s marketing director. James and John Garner, who both majored in drama in college and have performed on the OCT stage many times, will take on the role of directors. Rounding out the committee are Joseph Maricinek and Laurie Garner, two more veteran performers who majored in drama, and Mike White who is well-known to anyone who has seen a play at the OCT in the last 10 years.

By having a committee, they hope to keep any one person from feeling overwhelmed and they also want to utilize everyone’s strengths and abilities. According to James Garner, they would like to involve the community more. Hopefully they can train several people to do the lights, sound and act as stage manager, etc. It is their goal to have multiple people capable of running every aspect of a production so no one person has to do it every single time.

They are looking for artists, builders, stage managers, people to make costumes and props, people to work backstage, people to run sound equipment and lights. If you think you might like to learn to do any of these things, look for the Okeechobee Community Theatre on Facebook, and like them even if you don’t actually like them, said James Garner. That way you will get their updates.

When you become a part of the community theatre, it’s not just about the production. It’s also about the friends you make. A teacher works side by side with an electrician, who he might never have met if it weren’t for the theatre. It’s also about having an outlet for creativity. Where else is there a need to paint multiple murals on canvas several times a year? Where else would someone ask you if you could think of a way to make a turkey that could be stabbed with a knife several times during each performance and still look like a turkey afterward? Where else would someone ask you to make a giant ham costume for a little girl to wear using no pattern? It’s about the laughter that goes on even when there is no audience. If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, look for them on Facebook to find out what is happening next.

The first season with the new leadership promises to be an exciting one as they begin with a British farce, “See How They Run.” It is said to be one of the funniest plays ever written. In the spring, they plan to perform a comedic whodunit, “Death and Taxes,” which promises to be a hit as well.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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