Written by Dianne Neuman Whittington
Art Cole created the Midland Community Theatre in 1946. I became involved with the Children’s Theatre sometime in grade school but am not sure the exact grade. My mother was very interested in the arts and wanted her children to be exposed at an early age. The children’s classes were directed by Josephine Moran. We met once a week to learn about the theatre, act out small plays, learn about scenery, projecting our voices, writing plays, and where to stand on a stage.
My first role in a Children’s Theatre production was to be the fairy, Cordia, in Sleeping Beauty. In 1959, I was Gretel in “Hansel and Gretel”. Then I was a Munchkin in the Wizard of Oz. After that I mostly worked backstage. Shack Reeder worked a lot on scenery backstage. When we were bored, he taught me how to play Gin Rummy. I never beat him but I still play Gin Rummy.
My first and last role was in a Community Theatre production of “The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker” directed by Art Cole. I was one of the children along with Margie and Arch McColl and Vicki Thams. Mr. McColl was also in the play. Vicki and I were in the 8th grade and Margie was in the 7th. Ninth grade brought other interests but the love of theatre has never left. Art Cole continued to direct until 1983.
In 2005 a $3.6 million capitol campaign allowed renovations to be done on The Cole Theatre. Midland Community Theatre still continues in Midland. I consider my time there to be an important building block in my life. Looking back I am amazed to have had that opportunity in” the middle of nowhere” (as my mother always called Midland our first years there).
Below is a part of the playbill from “Hansel and Gretel” that was performed April 24th thru 28th, 1959. There were two different casts that performed on different days. This gave more people a chance to actually participate in a play and see how to put on a production. I think you might remember lots of the people listed.
My parents loved the theater and my mom was especially taken with my classmate Mary Lou Cassidy! Well done Dianne.
Love your story, Dianne. Looking at the program, it looks like half of Midland participated!
Linda Mills Wofford
You never cease to amaze me!!