LESLIE CRISS: All manner of humanity comes together in community theater

Leslie Criss “Theatres are curious places, magician’s trick-boxes where the golden memories of dramatic triumphs linger like nostalgic ghosts, and where the unexplainable, the fantastic, the tragic, the comic and the absurd are routine occurrences on and off the stage.”
E.A. Bucchianeri

“More theatre, less drama!”
motto of several community theaters

Old dogs can learn new tricks. Today at 2 p.m., I’ll be doing something I’ve never done before. Well, unless you count the past six days. But before that, never.

I’ve been running the sound for Corinth Theatre-Arts’ production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

My friend Cheryl has been commuting to Corinth, building the set for the production, and I’ve helped out a bit. Then she asked if I’d do the sound, and I couldn’t think of a reason to say no.

So all week, I’ve run the gamet of emotions – from being scared to death to just a little nervous to enjoying the job and having a good time being a small part of presenting a story I love.

Community theater is a really cool thing. My first experience was when I was in junior high school.

Grenada Little Theatre. They had no building to call their own, these hometown thespians. But that didn’t stop them from doing theater.

They took to the stage in the acoustically awful auditorium at Lizzie Horn Elementary School. The discomfort of the splintering wooden seats went unnoticed as I fell in love with live theater watching “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Mame” and so many others.

I never dreamed there might be a place for an introverted kid like me back then to get involved.

I remained an enamored theater observer in Vicksburg, but as a feature writer at the local newspaper, I stepped a little closer to the stage when I interviewed actors and directors, and wrote stories about performances at Parkside Playhouse.

Then I moved to Tupelo, and Cheryl, whose resume¬ – packed with a plethora of professional productions – impresses, gently pulled me through the stage door of Tupelo Community Theatre to get my feet wet.

I will, Sept. 12 and 13, work as a dresser for the third time for my friend and fine actor, Judd Wilson, in TCT’s “Red, White and Tuna.” The hilarious John Carroll will also star.

I’ve worked backstage on a few other TCT productions, and last spring, I actually screwed my courage to the sticking place and took on the role of Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose in “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

And now, for the next two weekends, I am a fixture in the tech booth at CT-A.

I love community theater. At its best, it’s a place where people of all ages, all dimensions, all genders, all ethnicities, all levels of ability can come together and take part in a creative process that ultimately has the power to make people think, feel, laugh, cry and learn.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is a story as old as time, and yet it’s timeless. A lot of folks at CT-A, on and off the stage, have been working very hard for weeks to bring this wondrous story to the Corinth stage. If you haven’t seen it, there’s a show this afternoon at 2, with four more performances this week.

I’m forever grateful to the folks at TCT and CT-A, and all the other letters of the alphabet that make up community theaters.

A place where, no matter who you are, they’ll take you in.


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  • whatitism

    Leslie it is so good to see your smiling face , always a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day . It is good to see you are still having fun , God blessed the world with happy people and it seems you always will be . Hope to bring my family to see you in action. You went to school with my sister , Linda or Susan and myself Dennis ,I was quite the prankster and mischievous one. Does my heart good to see you. God bless you and yours.