Stages of Lake

Originally published in Lake & Sumter Style, November 2013 • Photos by Fred Lopez


Community theater is thriving as acting troupes from Mount Dora to Clermont are kicking off their 2013–2014 seasons with a wide variety of plays.

Legendary playwright Oscar Wilde regarded the theater as “the greatest of all art forms.” He believed it was the most immediate way for a human being to share with another the sense of what it is to actually be a human being. The hundreds of volunteers who participate in Lake County’s award-winning theater troupes must certainly agree. They return year after year to the stage, not for money or fame but for a desire to feed their creative side.

“The adrenaline rush that comes from performing for a live audience is almost addicting. There is nothing like it,” says Thomas J. Kline, who has volunteered since 2001 for more than 20 productions with the Moonlight Players Warehouse Theatre in Clermont. “When you get in a costume and take on a persona, you feel more alive.”

Kline says it is not unusual for volunteers to give at least 160 hours to a production. Directors, he says, put in many more hours.

“It takes roughly 36 hours just for the performances; add to that the rehearsals four hours a night, four days a week for eight weeks and you see the commitment it takes,”
he says.

So many actors — as well as the crucial behind-the-scenes volunteers — believe the benefits outweigh the long hours. The lifelong friendships, sense of community spirit, and artistic achievement bring them back time after time to share the human experience, as playwright Wilde believed, with their audiences.

Lake and the surrounding counties have an abundance of excellent theater groups. Kline believes it’s because of the area’s close proximity to Orlando’s theme parks. “I have thought about the quality here a lot. A good three-fifths of our Moonlight Players are performers in the theme parks,” he says. “Community theaters give them a chance to act outside of their jobs, which can get boring doing the same thing day after day.”

And thanks to the dreams of the dedicated volunteers who started Lake County’s four community theaters, a good play is never far away.


BAY STREET PLAYERS AT THE HISTORIC STATE THEATRE, EUSTIS

352.357.7777 / baystreetplayers.org

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Nearly 40 years ago, a small group of theater aficionados rediscovered the vacant State Theatre building in downtown Eustis. They had visions of live performances in the once-grand movie house, but it took months of hauling away trash and making the building even minimally useful. Bay Street Players founding members Deborah and Dale Carpenter, Charlene Smith, and Lou Tally mounted their first production, “Hello, Dolly,” in July 1975. The following year they produced eight shows, and the Bay Street Players became permanently established. By 1986, BSP owned the State Theatre building outright, and two major renovations since then have restored the building’s facade to its original 1922 appearance.

Thousands of Lake County residents — and beyond — enjoy five Main Stage productions per season, as well as the innovative works of the Second Stage productions on Sunday evenings. In addition, the BSP Young People’s Theatre is Central Florida’s oldest continually running children’s theater program. Students ages 7–18 learn and create in year-round performance classes that end with full-scale productions.

Next Production: “A Christmas Story,” Nov. 15–Dec. 8.


MOONLIGHT PLAYERS AT THE WAREHOUSE THEATRE, CLERMONT

352.319.1116 / moonlightplayers.com
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The old car shop on West Montrose Street looks a lot different from its early days as the home of the Moonlight Players. During its grand opening in 1999, the old garage door on the front entrance was a bit of a distraction when patrons arrived late.

Nonetheless, the Moonlight founders Jan Sheldon and Sara Achor were delighted when the Moonlight Players finally had a permanent home. The two women actually began the troupe in 1994 with a monetary birthday gift from Jan’s dad. They produced “The Sound of Music” with Jan directing and Sara handling the music direction. Later that year, they produced the musical comedy “Nunsense” to sold-out audiences at Lakeridge Winery. For the next five years, the Moonlight Players performed in several venues, including the Jenkins Auditorium and the South Lake High School Auditorium.

This season, the Moonlight Players have an ambitious eight-play schedule that includes classics like “South Pacific” and the farcical comedy “Beyond Therapy.” In addition, the Moonlight Luna-Tics, a youth improv group, practices weekly.

Next Production: “The Man Who Came to Dinner” Nov. 1–24


SONNENTAG THEATRE AT THE ICEHOUSE, MOUNT DORA

352.383.4616 / icehousetheatre.com
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The can-do attitude of Mount Dora residents goes back a long way. It’s not surprising that a group met on Sept. 17, 1948, just to discuss the idea of forming a little theater. Officers were elected that same night and within a few days, an abandoned ice plant — with amazing acoustics no less — was located. On Feb. 7, 1949, the IceHouse Players opened to a sold-out audience with “Return Engagement.”
The city donated the land on North Unser Street in 1958 where the current 270-seat facility is located. The most recent renovation took place in 2011 thanks to an extraordinary gift from The Sonnentag Foundation and other private donors.

As they approach the 66th season in 2014, the IceHouse Players produce five to six shows a season ranging from classic musicals like “Oliver” to modern day comedies, such as the upcoming “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” by Mitch Albom.

Next Production: “Fiddler on the Roof” Nov. 22–Dec. 15


MELON PATCH PLAYERS, LEESBURG

352.787.3013 / melon-patch-players.com
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Three Leesburg women — Emily Faulhaber, Ruby Herlong, and Mildred Howard — had a vision for creating a little theater in town in 1951. The Leesburg [Daily] Commercial spurred the idea along with an article urging folks to attend a theater meeting. The Leesburg Women’s Club offered the use of its building for meetings and rehearsals and, thus, the Melon Patch Theater was born. The name was in honor of Leesburg’s fame as the watermelon capital of Florida and its annual Watermelon Festival.

During the initial years, shows were held at the Lee Elementary School auditorium and the Leesburg Community Building. In 1955, the current facility opened on 13th Street with the production, “Father of the Bride.” In 2002, Patchwork Productions began offering classes to area youngsters in drama, dance, comedy, and musical theater.

The Melon Patch Players offer six productions a year, including musicals like “Sweeney Todd” and classic stage plays such as Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes.”

Next Production: “A Nice Family Gathering” Nov. 22–24; Nov. 29–Dec. 1; Dec. 6–8


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