To Kill a Mockingbird

A scene from the community theater's "To Kill a Mockingbird" production. Community members can learn how to be involved in upcoming productions at AACT OUT! on July 25

Locals can learn more about Auburn’s community theater and how to get involved in the upcoming performance season on July 25, when the Auburn Area Community Theatre (AACT) hosts its season kick-off party. 

The party, called AACT OUT!, will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Jan Dempsey Community Arts Center.

The event, which is open to the public, will include refreshments, recognition of sponsors and volunteers, information on how to volunteer or become a sponsor and live previews of the upcoming season titles, according to a news release from AACT. 

“We have two or three minutes from each show being performed, and that introduces everybody to who’s the director, what the show is going to be like and things like that,” said Cora Connelly, AACT board member.

The kick-off party will also serve as an opportunity for cast members of previous productions to gather and interact with potential volunteers.

“It’s like a family event in some ways in that old casts come back and see each other, and you connect with everybody as well as new people who come in and say, ‘Auburn has a community theater?’” Connelly said.

When the theater was created 16 years ago, its founders saw a need to provide both children and adults an opportunity to perform. The 2019 season will feature four shows, two specifically for children.

“We have a lot of performing arts coming through town, but there aren’t many places where adults can perform,” Connelly said. “We have a lot of great theater in town we can watch, but we don’t have a lot of great theater people can do, and so it does fill that need.” 

She added that AACT helps people find their group and works to bring people out of their comfort zones.

“We’ve seen this through the years — kids or adults who come in who are terribly shy or really can’t find that place where they belong, just finding your community, finding your niche where you feel comfortable,” Connelly said. 

She said AACT offers a secure environment for children to come and escape the pressures of everyday life.

“When you’re at the high school, you’re with the same teacher, the same kids and if there are stressors or things like that, they’re still there,” Connelly said. “When you leave that and come into the community theater, it’s a different space. For a lot of kids, it’s a safer space, and we’ve really seen that dynamic be helpful for kids.” 

Throughout her 11 years on the board, Connelly has worked to provide opportunities for everyone to get involved, even those who prefer not to be on stage.

“One of my particular passions is the tech kids,” she said. “We had one girl who came in and she was 11 and her brother was in the show. She didn’t want to be on stage but definitely wanted to do something. She started handling spotlight, and she’s grown to paint scenery for us and do a whole range of things.”

The Jan Dempsey Arts Center provides the audience with a personal and up-close experience, but it does present some challenges, Connelly said.

“It’s a shared space, so we can’t build things ahead of time. We’re always having to rush out because the next group is coming in,” she said.

As part of the Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan, the center will soon undergo renovations, like ADA-compliance work and the potential relocation of the city’s ceramic studio to Jan Dempsey. The city will not hire a consultant until after Oct. 1, when a new fiscal year begins.

During that time, AACT will not be able to use the space, so the theater is raising money to support a temporary performance location.

“One other thing that we’re trying to get into people’s attention is what we call our Find a Home Fund,” Connelly said. “We’re going to have to temporarily find places to perform during that year.”

Connelly said they will try pop-up theater throughout the city, but AACT does hope to one day find a permanent home.

“Ideally, somewhere in the long-term, we would love to have our own space,” she said. “We’re trying to get the word out there that we exist and that there is a need (for community theater).”

AACT holds open auditions throughout the year. For more information on how to get involved, visit auburnact.org.

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