Seymour’s only performing arts theater started after a meeting at Steak ‘n Shake.
Betty Baute and her daughter, Kathleen Baute, of Brownstown and Michelle and Mich Callahan of Seymour met in July 2013 at the Seymour restaurant to get Actors Community Theater of Seymour up and running.
“We sat down, we nailed down what we wanted and we hired an attorney,” Betty Baute said. “They wrote up our bylaws, our constitution, our articles of incorporation and helped us secure the 501(c)(3).”
The first show, “Leading Ladies,” was presented in March 2014.
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Four other shows have been performed since then, and the sixth one is planned for the next two weekends.
“I Bet Your Life,” a suspense comedy production written by Fred Carmichael and presented under special arrangement with Samuel French Inc., will be the first full-length production at the not-for-profit organization’s new location in Suite 208 at Shops at Seymour.
The group did a series of monologues there in December, but for all other shows before that, they rehearsed in another suite and had to set up a stage at nearby Celebrations in Suite 101.
“We would tape out the shape and size of the stage with masking tape on the floor,” Betty said of rehearsals at the old location.
Setup for shows at Celebrations was on a Sunday, and they only had a week to rehearse onstage.
“We did two weekends, four shows, and then we tore the set down on Sunday after we closed,” Betty said.
Once they began leasing their new suite, nearly a dozen people spent a day assembling the stage.
“The stability to know this is here, that we don’t have to pick everything up and move it somewhere else,” Betty said of the benefit of the new location.
“It really is a load off just to know that we don’t have to dismantle the stage again if we don’t have to,” Kathleen said.
Memberships, ranging from $5 to $200 or more, helped the organization acquire the new venue. That funding also allows the group to pay for production costs, including royalties, costumes, set materials, lighting and sound equipment.
ACTS also has been able to flourish with people attending shows and receiving grants from the Indiana Arts Commission, Community Foundation of Jackson County, Greater Seymour Trust Fund and others.
“The beauty of this is it is all volunteer,” Betty said. “We have no paid employees.”
Before ACTS started, Betty was a past board member and officer at Jackson County Community Theatre in Brownstown, and Kathleen had acted in some shows there. At the time, that theater did four shows a year.
“We saw a need for more light entertainment, stage entertainment in the community other than just the four shows,” Betty said. “That’s why we started this group over in Seymour.”
The four people who started ACTS picked up some board members, who came together to plan shows for 2014.
Following “Leading Ladies,” ACTS did a Neil Simon play, “Fools,” in August 2014.
The other shows since then have been “A Greater Tuna,” “Kitchen Witches,” “Run for Your Wife” and “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues.”
Several of those productions were dinner theaters, and ACTS hopes to do at least one of those a year at the new location once tables are added.
Once “I Bet Your Life” ends, auditions are set for April 9 and 10 for the next show in June, and then ACTS plans to do a Christmas show in late November or early December.
If someone isn’t interested in acting onstage, Betty said each show has opportunities for directing, assistant directing, stage manager, props, backstage and lights.
With costuming, cast members typically bring items from home or buy something based on their character.
ACTS also received various articles of clothing when Little Theatre of Bedford had to clear out some of its costume room.
“We filled a 16-foot cattle trailer and my SUV, and it’s in my basement right now,” Betty said. “We’re in the process slowly but surely bringing stuff over here.”
Attendance has increased at shows thanks in part to ACTS being a part of the Theatre Alliance of Southern Indiana, which also includes JCCT, Little Theatre of Bedford, Washington County Players, Orange County Players and Actors’ Studio of Hope.
That helps each theater with casting calls and publicizing shows.
“We also have an adjudicator from each theater who will go see specific shows at every other theater,” Kathleen said. “Each group is allowed to propose two shows to be judged each year, and then we judge them based on musical and straight play.”
The alliance has an annual meeting during which awards are handed out and ideas are shared.
ACTS conducts monthly board meetings where the eight members discuss upcoming shows and events. Those meetings, which typically are at 2 p.m. the first Sunday of each month at the theater, are open to the public. Board officer nominations and elections are a part of the organization’s annual meeting in January.
Betty said the board has discussed ways to grow and branch out. That includes doing different genres of shows, with a big goal being a Spanish-language performance, or offering workshops to help people learn more about the different aspects of theater.
Even though ACTS is settling into its new location, Betty said they someday hope to outgrow that and possibly move into a larger building.
For now, though, those involved in ACTS are happy with how things are going.
Elyse McGill of Seymour said being right off of Interstate 65 is a bonus. One time, people from Wisconsin stopped by after finding information about a show on the visitor center’s website.
“They are more apt to come here because they can just hop right off the interstate. It’s right there,” McGill said.
Having a theater in Seymour also is convenient for the actors, she said.
“You have so many opportunities now because you have JCCT, you have ACTS, you have North Vernon, you have Hope,” McGill said of area theaters. “They are all fairly close, within about the same amount of driving distance, so it really gives us a bigger opportunity to put our talents to use.”
Jeremy Hendrix of Paris Crossing said Southern Indiana Center for the Arts is good for Seymour, but it doesn’t including performing arts, so ACTS fills that void.
“I think it’s just a good complement,” he said. “I think it’s way past time for theater in Seymour. There’s plenty for everybody.”
Tracy Day-Vaughn of Brownstown said she has been involved with the Fear Fair haunted attraction in Seymour. Having ACTS in the city gives her something to do in the offseason, she said.
“I Bet Your Life” is her first time performing in front of an audience.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said. “This group of people has just been very welcoming.”
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What: Actors Community Theater of Seymour’s production of “I Bet Your Life”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again April 7 and 8; doors open at 7 p.m. each night (seating is limited to 50 patrons per night)
Where: Shops at Seymour, 357 Tanger Blvd., Suite 208, Seymour
Cost: $12; may be purchased by credit or debit card online at seymouracts.ticketleap.com or reserved by texting or calling 812-498-2127; concessions will be available preshow and during intermission
Cast: Jeremy Hendrix as literary agent Greg Larson; Zach Thompson as Matt Stoddard, Larson’s friend and soap opera writer; Kathleen Baute as Stacy Kingsley, Larson’s secretary; Elyse McGill as the cook; Brett Hays as the plumber; Ashley Browning and Tim Gordon as the folksy neighbors; and Sherrie Wittenbring as the strange, otherworldly authoress
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Established July 1, 2013, Actors Community Theater of Seymour is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization of volunteer actors, directors, producers, set builders and others who support live theater productions.
ACTS recently moved into its new location in Suite 208 at Shops at Seymour, 357 Tanger Blvd., Seymour.
As a not-for-profit group, its funding largely depends on an annual membership drive. The levels of membership include $5 (student, kindergarten through high school), $10 (adult), $20 (family), $25 to $49 (patron), $50 to $99 (bronze), $100 to $199 (silver) and $200 or more (gold).
Memberships help pay for production costs (royalties, costumes, set materials, lighting and sound equipment) for shows.
For information, visit seymouracts.org or facebook.com/actorscommunitytheaterofseymour.