Wetumpka Depot Players have come a long way

Wetumpka Depot Community Theatre - Photo by Marc Parker
Wetumpka Depot Community Theatre - Photo by Marc Parker

Wetumpka, AL – Located in historic downtown Wetumpka is a community theater where the likes of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Odd Couple, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Father of the Bride are performed night after night to citizens all around the state of Alabama. The theater began as an idea in the Spring of 1980 until the local people pooled their skills and resources to build their dream into a reality. Our Prattville caught up for a chat with the group’s Executive Director Kristy Meanor.

Tell us about yourself. Are you always the Director of the plays at the Depot?

Since 1982, I grew up with the Depot Players. One of the Depot founders, Patsy Butler, was my dance team sponsor. One day after dance rehearsal she told me she was directing a play with the then newly formed Depot Players, and that I should audition. I was too chicken to audition but as luck would have it, the gal who was cast in Where The Lilies Bloom dropped out and I got the role by default. The role of Devola was the first of many “dumb blondes” that I would eventually play!

I have performed in Montgomery and Wetumpka in numerous shows. While I enjoy being on stage, I have come to love directing almost as much. I have an extremely tolerant and supportive family (husband Ron and children, Laurel, Drew and Colgan) who allow me to work odd hours doing what I love. Before becoming the Executive Director at the Depot, I worked for a health care non-profit doing marketing and fundraising. I also serve as a church pianist and part-time piano teacher in my spare time! I am blessed to be working in professions that I am passionate about.

No, I am not the only director at the Depot. We have several board members who direct and we take submissions from outside our board to direct as well.

It seems that the Depot has come a long way since the Spring of 1980…what would you say has been the biggest challenge to date?

I would say the biggest challenge for us was finding a permanent location. When we grew out of our small space behind the Methodist church, we essentially were homeless for several years. We kept producing shows, however, during that time at the Wetumpka Performing Arts center on the campus of Wetumpka Junior High and at the historic Elmore County Courthouse. However, there were only so many courtroom dramas that could be produced. Our current home certainly meets our needs and allows us the autonomy we need to produce the shows on our own time schedule.

Our board members, some of them our founders, are the real backbone behind the Depot Players. They assist with so many facets of what we do…from front of house activities, to concessions, to fixing toilets, to picking up popcorn, to making decisions about financial needs, our board does it all. We simply would not be where we are today without each of them.

Is there a play that sticks in your mind that was the most successful as far as ticket sales?

Several plays have been real crowd pleasers for us. One of our audience favorites were the Smoke on the Mountain shows. Those shows have real appeal to our audience and are a lot of fun to produce. In fact, most of our musicals do well for us. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was very successful, as well as the Nunsense shows and Annie Get Your Gun. A surprise for us is how well bedroom farces have been received. Perfect Wedding and Whose Wives Are they Anyway? were real hits.

How are the plays chosen? Are they all set at the beginning of the year?

Our reading committee met just this week and finalized the plans for the 2010 season. We like to plan early to advertise our season as well as better prepare for the demands of each show.

As far as auditioning, do you have open auditions on all plays or do you go with seasoned actors first?

At any given time on our stage, you will find actors with various experience levels. Our auditions are completely open. Everyone is encouraged to audition. We are a true community theater in that we exist not only for our audiences but also to provide a creative outlet in drama, music, and dance for people of all ages and abilities.

I know it would probably be difficult, but who would you say is one of your most talented actors? What characteristics do you look for in an actor in any given audition?

There is simply no way I could say that any one Depot actor is the most talented of the group. Every actor brings to the table his strengths and abilities to play certain kinds of roles. Some actors are great character actors, others bring good vocal skills to demanding singing roles, other folks are just versatile and could adapt and transform into any kind of character. When I am casting a show I look for folks who are willing to have fun and collaborate with me in the creative process of putting together a show from audition to closing night.

Our actors and volunteers come from various day jobs and backgrounds. We have nurses, lawyers, stay at home moms, bankers, college students, and retired folks who participate in not only the performing aspect of what we do but also volunteer in the countless other areas that it takes to run a thriving community theater.

The Wetumpka Depot community theater is located at 300 South Main Street in Wetumpka. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten opens on July 16. For more information on how you can volunteer or audition for the Wetumpka Depot Players, go to their website at www.wetumpkadepot.com or contact Kristy Meanor at 868-1440.

Article by Melissa Parker

© 2009 Our Prattville. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.