Hendricks Civic Theatre Remains Community-Focused
Writer / Bailey Roberts
Photographer / Andy Janning
A high school student walks through the halls every day invisible to most, bullied by others. She feels rejected, misunderstood and her self-esteem fades day by day, until one day she finds herself on stage in front of her peers and teachers. The emotion and adrenaline can be overwhelming, and, in the case of Carrie, the title character of Hendricks Civic Theatre’s fall musical production, can lead to death and destruction.
Another high school student goes throughout her day being bullied and feeling useless. She is looking for hope and somewhere to belong. One day, she also finds herself on stage, and, in contrast to Carrie, finds herself gaining confidence and being part of a community.
The latter is exactly the type of community upon which Hendricks Civic Theatre is made.
“At Hendricks Civic Theatre we change lives,” says Karla Janning, HCT board member.
Janning recalled one instance before HCT’s 2016 Christmas show “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” where a young cast member opened up, tearfully thanking everyone for making her feel important, included and like she was one of the family.
“She said being part of a great cast had given her hope and made her realize that she wasn’t useless and that she didn’t deserve to be bullied,” Janning says. “She said that we made her feel loved and respected. It showed me what community theatre is all about.”
“We are a place where people from all walks of life, all ages, all skill sets, all backgrounds, find common ground, a community and a family,” he says. “For some, including many youth, this is the one (perhaps only), place where they can fit in, where they are encouraged and able to shine. We are more than just a community, we’re a family of people who love drama —the good kind.”
This message of community and kindness is one that HCT addressed in their controversial fall production of “Carrie: The Musical”, a stage adaptation of the novel by Stephen King. The show centers on Carrie, a bullied high school student who gets revenge on her tormenters during prom. While the topic of show may be dark, HCT saw it as an opportunity to address the ever-growing bullying issues in schools and ask the question, “What does it cost to be kind?”
Wristbands that promoted the show prompted further discussion, reminding the wearer to “Always Be Kinder Than Necessary.” Even small, seemingly unimportant actions can be of greatest importance to someone else.
Janning and her family have all played roles in various HCT productions over the years, and have seen the kind of change that community and connection bring. Every production is made up of groups of complete strangers, often with only their love of theatre in common, who volunteer their time and talents to be a part of something bigger than themselves. She noted that the cast of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” left the show having made lasting friendships, and, more importantly, having made lasting impressions on each other.
For the past 40 years HCT has fostered this kind of community involvement, putting on shows with diverse casts, creating connections that go far beyond the stage. The Board of Directors describes HCT as “a community organization with a theatre habit.”
This desire for the stage has grown HCT from an idea by Marianne Mowrer in 1980 to being gifted the Longstreet Church building, which hosts many of their productions, to partnerships with local schools and churches to produce youth shows and musicals with casts too large for Longstreet’s 80-seat theatre.
Jerry Vornholt, HCT President hopes to see this growth continue and has big dreams for the theatre and for Hendricks County.
“The explosive growth in Hendricks County has not only put a strain on our infrastructure and schools, it has also put a strain on our Arts infrastructure,” Vornhold says. “With record numbers for us, the Hendricks County Arts Council, the Hendricks Symphonic Society and the Children’s Ballet, which are all non-profit community organizations, it is time for the County to work together to build a Performing Arts Center.”
As a non-profit organization, HCT is run by a board who volunteers their time to bring the best of theatre to Hendricks County. All HCT’s shows are produced by volunteer casts and crews, and the commitment from everyone is evident in the quality of the shows they perform. If you are looking to learn a new skill, step out of your comfort zone, or experience true community, contact HCT for volunteer opportunities or audition dates. At their core, HCT believes that “whether in the audience, on the stage, or behind the scenes, everyone can play a role.”
Their current season, which runs from August 2017- July 2018 includes “Carrie: The Musical,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Shrek: The Musical,” “Things My Mother Taught Me,” “Little Women: The Broadway Musical” and “The Foreigner.” Visit hendrickscivic.com for more information.