ACT has been performing for the community for 44 years and is going strong still today! Area Community Theatre was originally founded by a joint effort of civilian and military personnel from the Tomah/Sparta area, so it seemed natural that the first home be located on Fort McCoy’s Military Base.
Since 1976, the Monroe County Area has been entertained with quality performances. Audiences of all ages enjoyed live theatre for 25 years (1976-2001) at ACT’s Fort McCoy location, in building 1255. However, after the tragic events of 9-11, security tightened on the base, and ACT was forced to find a new home.
After purchasing an older building at 902 Superior Ave in 2002, several volunteers quickly constructed a small stage and lobby area, installed 69 seats and lighting, and began a very successful 2002-2003 season. This was a good move for the theatre, and we saw memberships triple and ticket sales soar. Although the location was right, ACT was well aware that it would be a temporary fix and not a solution.
The summer of 2007, the Area Community Theatre moved into our current location. The theatre seats 89 people, and has a bigger stage than the previous location. An estimated 3,000 patrons enjoy successful ACT productions each year. Approximately 200 people are involved as cast, crew and volunteers during ACT’s annual productions.
Over the years we have had numerous well received performances. ACT has done dramas, comedies and musicals. Through the many performances, we have realized that the comedies and musicals are best received. A couple of our favorite shows were the winter show of The Red Velvet Cake Wars. This was a southern comedy of the three Verdeen cousins who could not have picked a worse time to throw their family reunion. Their outrageous antics have delighted local gossips in the small town of Sweetgum Texas.
The other one was The Sound of Music. This is a classic production about the life of the VonTrapp family and a young nun that is sent to be the children’s governess. This performance had one of the largest casts that ACT has ever had. We had a total of 28 cast members of which 13 were children and the youngest of the children was 5. The directors and the cast did and exceptional job and many of the members from that cast still keep in close communication today as a result of the friendships they developed during their work on this play.
Through the years the board has had many strong members some with artistic backgrounds and others with business backgrounds. They all volunteer their time to make ACT the best that it can be. The board is made up of the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Artistic director, Public Relations, Facility Manager, and other board members.
Area Community Theatre was fortunate to receive two grants this year one from the Andre Grant Foundation for help with having E3 Coalition come in and change out all our light fixtures to more energy efficient ones. The second grant was from the Thomas Earle Foundation to help with updating the facility to be more handicapped accessible.
ACT has dreams for the future of remodeling the building to have a 300 seat theatre, a rehearsal/performance area adaptable to multiple staging formats, set construction area, green room (actors lounge), dressing rooms, and make up room.
Over the years, attendance and interest in the Arts has grown steadily. More and more people have become involved with all aspects of live theatre. ACT has carried out its mission to promote, encourage and increase the public’s knowledge, appreciation for and participation in the Arts.
If you haven’t been to a show, try it! You might be surprised. We hope future generations of the area will perpetuate our dreams and continue to preserve the vision of community theatre.
I love ACT because I love the Arts, which are Music, Theatre, & Art. ACT & the Cultural Arts Center offer all of theses. I also love ACT because of the people who are committed to giving their time & talents for this theatre. It's offered an opportunity for me to know people I wouldn't have known otherwise.
-- Marilyn Karnall