It’s a Friday evening and inside the theater that houses the Flint Community Players it is easy to feel the beat of both anxiousness and excitement. After nearly seven weeks of rehearsals, the cast is just days away from the premier of the second show of the season. Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” opens Nov. 8 and runs for two weekends.
“This show has one of the best assembled casts I’ve ever been part of, and has a bit of everything that all of us can connect to,” says Mary Powers, who plays the role of the loopy mother. Powers, a retired teacher, has been active in local theater for more than two decades, but this is her first run with the Flint Community Players. (For a sneak peak at the show, see the slideshow above.)
The season for Flint Community Players kicked off in September with the musical “Gypsy,” and continues through May. It is Flint Community Players’ 90th season. And while the longevity of the organization is proof that there is a need for locally produced, live theater in Flint, it still remains an often overlooked entertainment option.
“It’s your friends, family and people you know from the community you see on stage. More than that, you’ll see a darn good show at a really good price,” said Rusty Thomas, a local radioman who first got on stage with Flint Community Players in the seventh grade. Then in 1987, he became a set-builder, and over the three decades since has done just about anything that can be done for the group. His duties now include sitting on the Board of Directors.
The 2018-19 season also includes “A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas” from Dec. 1-2, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” from Jan. 10-20, “Arsenic and Old Lace” from March 14-24, and “La Cage aux Folles” from May 9-19.
In addition, Flint Community Players produces a Ghost Light Series, which are smaller-scale, shorter-term productions that “explore the human condition” and are intended for adult audiences.
Nancy Szikszay started out at the Flint Community Players helping to set props back in 1965 when the players still were based out of Bower Theater in Flint’s Cultural Center. Her family moved to Flint in 1961 and her parents involved the whole family in theater. In fact, her parents, Tom and Bea Nobles, were such a major part of the theater community that the current theater on Ballenger Highway just south of Miller Road is named after them.
Szikszay fondly remembers a time when Flint Community Players would add shows to the schedule to accommodate huge crowds, selling out the 300-seat Bower Theater.
“The climate has changed a great deal for community theater over the years,” Szikszay says. Szikszay writes up to seven grants per year to help fund the organization. After that, they rely on donors, advertising in each play’s program, as well as a trust fund that was established by donors years ago, which primarily is used to pay for the theater’s utilities and repairs.
The Tom and Bea Nobles Performance Center has been home to Flint Community Players for five years. It seats 140 and ticket prices are $13 per show and $17 for musicals. Two part-time employees help with upkeep of the building and show directors receive stipends. Szikszay describes Flint Community Players as a labor of love.
“Barefoot in the Park” shows at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8-10, 16, 17 (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11 and 18 (Sundays).
For tickets and more information, call the Tom and Bea Nobles Performance Center box office at (810) 441-9302 or visit www.flintcommunityplayers.com