For 40 consecutive years, the Wetumpka Depot Players have presented theatrical productions.
The nationally recognized and award-winning community theatre organization is marking its 40th anniversary by looking back and looking forward, according to its artistic director Kristy Meanor.“We would never have dreamed back then we would have that kind of longevity,” Meanor said. “We knew we wanted to pay respect to our history and give a nod to our future as well.”
As a result, Meanor said the Depot Players will revive two popular shows from their past and two new shows.
“’Big River’ is one of the shows from our past that had a huge audience following when we did it 10 years ago,” she said. “We could have ran the show for two months and people really loved the music.”
“Big River” is based on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” combined with the tunes of popular country musician Roger Miller. The production runs Feb. 6 through 22.
“The musical is kind of Americana personified,” Meanor said. “It’s a great story. Miller’s music is that show just makes it so endearing and charming.”
The theatre will also hold a 40th birthday at 7 p.m. Feb. 8. Current and past supporters including actors, designers, ushers, concessions, crew and sponsors are invited. Anyone interested in attending must contact Meanor by Feb. 5 by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Depot Players continues their season with presentations of “Don’t Dress for Dinner” April 2 through 18, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” July 16 through 30 and Aug. 1 and “The Sugar Bean” Sept. 10 through 26.
Meanor said one of the keys to success of the theatre’s longevity has to do with keeping community members involved.
“Nine times out of 10 there are people on stage making their stage debut,” she said. “I think it is keeping the community vibe to it. Community members love to come see their friends and colleagues on stage.”
Meanor said outreach has also been an important key in keeping the theatre going.
“We have a thriving youth academy,” she said. “We are training up the next generation of theatre artists to hopefully come play with us. We have a special needs theatre outreach.”
The theatre also offers senior citizens the ability to participate.“We have the Encore Players,” she said. “They are a group of retired folks who still dabble in theatre.”
Meanor said the theatre is well-known beyond just Wetumpka.
“We are respected on the national level,” she said. “We’ve had two national shows the last 10 years. It puts us on the map and had some unique opportunities because of that.”
As a result of the success, the theatre draws an audience beyond Elmore County, Meanor said.
“Our audiences comes from all over the Southeast,” she said. “Any given show night you’ll see tags from all over. We have a huge supporting base from Montgomery and Birmingham. Folks from Florida and Georgia come see our shows.”
Meanor is the only paid staff member. The board and everyone involved in productions and running the front of the house are volunteers.
“While I’m the only staff member, there is no way I could do it by myself,” she said. “It is driven by the volunteers and the board.”
She said the board is made up of 15 people and there are a core group of 100 volunteers, but she is always looking for more people to participate.
“One of the best things a potential volunteer can do is stop by and see me,” she said. “We sit down and talk and figure out what they would enjoy doing whether it’s on the artistic side of what we do or tickets or ushering.”
The theatre is located at 300 S. Main St. in downtown Wetumpka. Box office hours 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Tickets are available at the box office or by calling 334-868-1440 or visiting www.wetumpkadepot.com.