Mike Stedham, a board member and actor with the group said this season went really well, starting out with the popular musical, Grease. A stage adaptation of the film Miracle on 34th Street was this year’s Christmas show, and the “redneck comedy” Dearly Departed played this spring. The season closed with the musical review, Boomers.
Jeremy Reaves performed in the group’s production of Grease this year.
“We fought to get Grease,” he said. “There was concern some of the content was too risky for this area.”
Despite the concern, there were good-sized audiences and the show was well received, he said.
Community Actors Studio Theater, known as CAST, is a positive force in Anniston, said Heather Garlick, who has acted with the group since her mid-teens. Garlick said she attended Donoho School, which was limited in its dramatic offerings at the time. Therefore, she said, unless a high school has a drama program there aren’t many outlets for students interested in theater.
“It brings theater to kids,” Reaves said.
The two agreed the theater group is good for theater lovers in Anniston as well.
“Otherwise you’d have to drive to Birmingham,” Reaves said.
Georgia Cook, who handed out the awards Saturday night, said she attends Birmingham-Southern College and commutes back to Anniston to be a part of the program.
The evening was also an occasion to honor the memory of George Whitesel, who died June 18. Whitesel was a librarian at Jacksonville State University and a founding board member of CAST. He frequently performed in community theater plays and came up with the group’s name.
A family friend, Margaret Folsom, remembered Whitesel at the ceremony. When she was young, he came to her family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
“I wish I could have recorded those conversations,” she said.
Later, he acted as a grandfather and mentor while she wrote her dissertation in grad school. Finally, most recently, he was a friend, she said.
The theater’s success is due partially to a large turnout at audition time, said Stedham. There were several new faces in this season’s shows, he added.
“You’ll always see some of the old hands like me in plays,” he said. “We always like to have a lot of new talent.”
The excitement surrounding Grease helped bring in some of the younger crowd to both the stage and the audience, he said.
“We still think we’re bringing in new blood and fresh ideas.”
Yet along with the success of this year came financial struggle.
The sagging economy forced the theater group to switch from three weekends of shows to two for each play a few years ago. This year they drastically cut the number of paper invitations for the awards show that were printed and mailed out.
“We’re always looking for ways to save money,” Stedham said.
Paying royalties for use of the script and music, if any, as well as the cost of building sets are major expenses.
“We also pay our director, of course,” he said. “That’s another major cost.”
Despite the shortage of funds, CAST hasn’t raised its season ticket prices for several years.
“We’re a really good bargain,” Stedham said.
2011 Randy Award winners include:
Best Cameo in a Play: Ramsey Whitney
Best Cameo in a Musical: Heather Garlick
Featured Actor in a Play: Daniel King, Jr.
Featured Actress in a Play: Chloe Cater
Best Featured Actor in a Musical: Jeremy Reaves
Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Erin Mahaffey
Best Lead Actor in a Play: Jim Athon
Best Lead Actress in a Play: Hayley Long
Best Lead Actor in a Musical: Joshua Hunt
Best Lead Actress in a Musical: Judy Sheeley
Edel Y. Ayers Award: Michelle Bain