HAZARD – Preparations are underway this week as actors with the Little Theatre of Hazard are on stage and rehearsing for the group’s latest production, set to begin on Feb. 21.
The Little Theatre’s latest show will be a production of “Play On!”, a three-act comedy about a community theatre group’s attempt at staging a play in their hometown. The first two acts will showcase the fictional acting troupe’s preparations, with the final act being their opening night.
Rehearsals began last week in Hazard for what will be a four-day run as part of the Greater Hazard Area Performing Arts Series.
The Little Theatre of Hazard is a long-standing community theatre group. Formed in 1954, dozens of productions have taken place, many on the Hazard campus of Hazard Community and Technical College. But in all those years, the Little Theatre has essentially remained a group without a home, noted Terry Thies, who is directing their performance of “Play On!” this month.
For years the Little Theatre has had a great working relationship with the college, Thies said, holding productions at the auditorium in what is now known as the Jolly classroom building or inside the community room at the First Federal Center. But in a series of community meetings held a few years ago, Thies noted that the issue of a possible permanent home for community theatre was brought up, and that could be a very real possibility moving forward.
The Community Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky is also currently working on that issue, as the Herald first reported in 2011. Thies said the foundation has played a pivotal role in the search, including with a feasibility study, and a new non-profit has been formed as well, the Appalachian Arts Alliance, which is aiming to find “space and support” for a new arts center in Hazard.
The groups involved in 2011 were looking at locations on Hazard’s Main Street, and Thies noted this week that a downtown location is still on the list of possibilities. But she added that this community arts center won’t be one exclusively for theatre.
“We are looking at locations downtown,” she said. “We want to create a place where theatre can live, but also have other arts disciplines available.”
Thies said she envisions an arts center where students can come after school, and local artists have a place to create.
“As we know, unfortunately, the first education cuts always go to the arts, which doesn’t make a lot of sense because the arts are basic to every area of study, they will help in every area,” Thies said. “We want to try to take up some of the slack.”
But in the meantime, the Little Theatre of Hazard is continuing to play its artistic role in the Hazard community. The group’s youth players are performing each year during the annual Summer in the Park, and that gives kids aged three to 18 an opportunity to perform in a show each year.
The Little Theatre is also working to take shows to the nursing home and veterans center in Hazard, something that Thies said is effectively bringing shows to the people who might not be able to attend the group’s regular performances.
The Little Theatre’s production of “Play On!” will open Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., and run through Sunday, Feb. 24 at the First Federal Center at Hazard Community and Technical College. Shows will be held that Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., while the Sunday show will be a matinee at 2:30 p.m. at the First Federal Center.