BY MELANIE BUCK –
In 1993, a tornado came through Mena and reaked havoc on many homes and buisnesses. Unfortunately, as the tornado passed, it took part of Ouachita Little Theatre with it, leaving the back of the theatre in shambles. Taking dressing rooms, part of the stage, and the orchestra pit, the theatre has had to make due ever since.
As with all community theater, funding is a major challenge. But, like always, this community has come together with the common goal of making the theatre even better than before.
Several years ago, John Vacca suggested a guild be formed for theatre specific fundraising. Today, that guild has been created, headed by Karen Mosier, and money is being raised. That, and a grant through Western Arkansas Planning and Development that was gained through the involvement of State Representative Nate Bell will insure that the building that houses OLT will get the much needed repairs it deserves. “I’m proud that we have such fine theater and other arts thriving here in our small rural community. I’m especially happy that I could help with obtaining funding for the back porch enclosure project as I personally built the main porch and floor structure about 10 years ago,” stated Bell.
Construction has begun on the back part of the building. What was once the back of the stage, turned into a back porch after the tornado ripped through. That porch is now being enclosed. This area will serve as a cast area during performances where they can change costumes, touch up their make-up, and relax while waiting to hit the stage. A scene shop will also be created with cabinets for tools and props. Currently, props and backdrops are created on the stage due to lack of space. Men’s and women’s bathrooms are also included in this area so that performers won’t have to walk outside and around to the front of the building during performances.
The construction is being conducted, at no cost, by volunteers Scotty Jenkins, Tim Hesse, TJ Thompson, and David Posey. Construction is due to be completed by the performance dates of Willy Wonka. This will be an extraordinary inclusion for the musical since there are 95 cast members with, currently, no where to sit.
After the project is completed, future goals will include making the bathrooms handicap accessible and giving the theatre a vintage look. Nothing was able to be salvaged from the original movie theater, built in 1924, due to years of disrepair and tornado damage, except the tile outside the front doors. Although the theatre can not be restored to its original state, plans are being drawn to give it that old theatre feel.
If you would like to assist with this, or any other projects or productions, call 479-243-0186 or visit www.oltmena.com. Even if the stage is not for you, there is always something else you can do to add to the success of OLT.