Cullman’s community theatre staging a comeback


Recruits for the proposed community theatre board meet with Wayne Cook (far right) after the public meeting.  L-R: Melva Jackson (seated), Linda Foley, Cindy Pass and Sarah Jane Skinner (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)

CULLMAN – On Tuesday evening, area residents interested in reviving community theatre in Cullman gathered at the Cullman Civic Center for an informal meeting to offer information and, hopefully, to lay the groundwork for the rapid formation of a local theatrical troupe.  Wayne Cook, Theatre Director at Cullman High School (CHS), is teaming up with Cullman Parks and Recreation (CP&R) to co-sponsor the new group.

Before the meeting, Cook told The Tribune, “I feel strongly that community theatre is an important part of a community like this.  It fills a need, fills a gap (with something) that we currently don’t have. And, with all the things that have happened in this community: the growth, the economic expansion that we’ve seen–we’ve seen growth in so many arenas; that’s the last link, in my view, of what we really need to explore.  And the arts in general, but I specifically come at it from a theatre perspective.

“You go to a lot of communities: you go to Decatur, you go to Florence, you go to Huntsville (which) has tons of opportunities for community theatre.  Birmingham has gobs of opportunities for community theatre. Even places like Arab and Guntersville have community theatre groups. So we really need an opportunity for adults and children, and students and people to work alongside each other to do productions in the community.  

“This would be an organization that would–it would obviously be a collaboration with the schools, but this is not a school-sponsored thing.  This will be a community-sponsored thing, and so it’ll have a little different approach, in the sense that we’ll open it up to all ages, all people that want to be a part.”

Cook emphasized that the proposed program would be open to people all over Cullman County, not just Cullman residents or Cullman City Schools students.  The group will also recruit talent from all age ranges, though Cook did specify that very young children would come on board as members of involved families.

The crowd that gathered to hear Cook speak was a wide-ranging group that included current and former CHS theatre students and tech crew members, members of Cullman’s previous community theatre group (of which Cook was a member himself), staff from local churches, members of a local homeschool group, and personalities from Cullman’s arts community.

According to Cook, CP&R will help underwrite the group and its projects by means of mechanisms already existing within that organization.  He told the assembled group, “They’re taking it on, because there’s a financial risk with theatre. You kind of have to have something undergirding it.  And so, that’s where they come in; they help us from that perspective, and also from the perspective that we don’t have to recreate all these things that you have to create if you create your own organization, which can be done with community theatre.  But if you have to create a total nonprofit, it’s pretty complicated, but we can go through CP&R, and they can operate some of this for us, and it works out pretty good.”

Waid Harbison and Kristy Patterson will serve as liaisons between CP&R and the community theatre.

Cook introduced the crowd to his proposed board of directors:

  • Cindy Pass – local theatre and music teacher who has taught at CHS and East Elementary
  • Melva Jackson – acting teacher and production director who has directed shows all over the country
  • Sarah Jane Skinner – CHS Director of Choirs, who has overseen music for multiple CHS theatre productions
  • Noah Carpenter – graduate of CHS and veteran of the school’s theatre program who has been active in technical work for numerous local productions
  • Linda Foley – veteran of Cullman’s former community theatre troupe and director of multiple local productions

Though they could not attend the meeting, Cook also said that he had reached out to:

  • Ty Parker – West Point High School Director of Performing Arts
  • Lauren Cantrell Salerno – Wallace State Theatre instructor
  • Tiffany Richter – Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts instructor

The proposed board listing is preliminary.  Not all invited members have yet decided about participating, and others could still be contacted.

Cook told the group, “There’s just all kinds of opportunities out there: to build relationships among generations, to establish and identify people’s creative abilities, to understand the talents this community has.  I know there are gobs of talent here. I went to Cullman High School and said, ‘There is talent at Cullman High School.’ And boy, when you uncover it, it is there! And if it’s at Cullman High School, it’s all throughout this county; not only amongst the high school kids, but it’s all over, amongst the adults and the people that are all in the churches and different places, that could get interested in something like a community theatre.  So there are lots of good reasons to get this established.”

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