Tupelo Community Theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary with a rooftop gala from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Park Heights Restaurant – a rare self-indulgence for the impressively successful nonprofit whose work and art are sustained overwhelmingly by unpaid volunteers.
The rooftop gala – which honors the 16 founding corporate directors and the rest of the 141 people who have served on the TCT board – offers a reminiscence of the more than 200 productions brought to many different venues, but especially the historic Lyric Theatre, TCT’s home since 1984.
The board membership represents 800 years of volunteer service over the four decades.
The Lyric, former a vaudeville house and cinema, dates from the early 20th century, and is a downtown Tupelo landmark on court square. TCT’s nearly $2 million cumulative investment in The Lyric is a measure both of the company’s strength and its ability to raise money from individual, corporate, foundation and government donors.
Most of the improvements have been in the usually unseen parts of what makes theaters successful: technical improvements, adequate space for dressing, make-up, costumes and the remarkable theatrical effects enhancing drama, comedy and music. Investments in seating, hospitality areas and environmental amenities make the Lyric a comfortable but still classic venue.
TCT’s previous homes (some for only a few weeks or days) include the stages of schools, a Lee County Courtroom, the now-razed Fairgrounds Community Center where City Hall stands, a hotel ballroom, a church fellowship hall, and a former church building, that’s now a church again. It’s rehearsal spaces have included corporate warehouses, a Tupelo city board room/court room, and every available space in the Lyric and former “homes.”
Its audience – about 250,000 tickets sold – has faithfully followed its migration. Its programs include a summer youth theater, scholarships, special shows and professional concerts, especially for fundraisers. Its “alumni” include professional actors John Dye, Allie Grant, Emmy Award casting winner Will Stewart, Broadway touring musical director William Waldrop, and Turner Classic Movies executive Tom Brown.
Its cast members have come from across Northeast Mississippi, most rushing from full-time jobs in almost every field except full-time theater to make rehearsal calls for weeks and months at a time. Its productions have won top statewide and regional awards in community theater association competitions.
TCT has become a remarkable, enduring community asset.
Some tickets – $25 each – remain for the Thursday gala. The party includes heavy hors d’oeuvres and adult beverages. Call (662) 844-1935 and ask Executive Director Tom Booth for information.
NEMS Daily Journal