story by Brittany Shepard
Southeast Alabama Community Theatre
In 1974, a small group of theatre in Dothan fans joined together and decided that the town needed its very own community theatre. By 1976, the group formed Southeast Alabama Community Theatre (SEACT), and it became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Forty seasons later with three or more main stage shows each year, the community theatre has grown and has become the foundational theatre program in the Dothan community.
“We have grown quite a bit especially in the last 10-12 years, and at any one time we have about 200 people working on a season,” said General Manager Jennifer Doherty. “But, as far as active members, we have as many as 600 that are coming to shows, working on shows and acting in shows.”
SEACT’s mission to enrich the cultural lives of Wiregrass residents through theatre is put into action by the various ways they bring community theatre to the community including their own performances, their annual summer camps and their willingness to serve as a resource for costumes and props for schools and other local theatre productions.
According to Jennifer, the effect that arts and theatre can have on a community is not only just bringing community theatre opportunities to residents but also attracting potential residents to the area to convince them move and to stay.
“I feel like it’s my mission to work with our city, county, chamber and even economic development folks to make them understand that we are here to make a positive impact and that we add to the quality of life here,” said Jennifer. “We could be a reason that someone might come here for a job and stay because they really like the area.”
One of the ways that SEACT reaches out to families is through their annual summer camp. It is also one of the best ways for children interested in theatre to get their feet wet.
“It really is a great opportunity for young people to get their first taste being on stage and being a part of a team that is putting on a show,” said Jennifer.
The first summer camp was held over twenty years ago when Sam and Eddie Farnham brought the idea of a summer camp to SEACT. The first summer there were two one-week camps with about 40 kids, and in 2015 there were four one-week camps with over 200 kids.
The kids come in on a Monday and get a script, they go through a mock audition process and all receive roles and then they spend the week learning their lines, putting the show together and rehearsing. On Friday of the camp, they perform the show for their friends and families.
“We have kids that have come through our summer camps that are now working in film and auditioning for stage roles, and this past year we hosted a second generation camper whose parent once participated in the SEACT summer camp,” said Jennifer.
Operated by a fifteen-member board of directors, SEACT runs mostly on the work of volunteer members. To be a member of SEACT, there is no charge. A person simply has to walk through the doors and express interest. SEACT is funded by season tickets holders, business sponsorships and donations from generous community members.
There is a volunteer opportunity for anyone that would like to participate including acting, carpentry, musicians, technicians, seamstresses and more. Oftentimes, volunteers are scheduled years in advance of a show because shows are scheduled at least two years ahead of time. Some creative ways to jump in and volunteer right now are to help with administrative tasks at the office or usher a show.
SEACT does not have its own theatre location and is thankful to partner with the Cultural Arts Center to use its space for an office, rehearsal space and theatre. Hopefully, SEACT will have one day a theatre home of its own, there is a building set up for anyone that wants to contribute.
Currently, SEACT is working on its holiday dinner theatre performance of It’s a Wonderful Life that will run December 7 – 12, 2015. This performance is not part of the season ticket passage, but you can purchase tickets for the dinner theatre or for riser seating.
“The holiday dinner theatre has become sort of a tradition for families and businesses, and they plan their holiday parties to come to our dinner theatre,” said Jennifer.
Hairspray will run March 8 – 12, 2016, and then All My Sons will run April 26 – 30, 2016. There is a play to appeal to most everyone each season.
“We try to appeal to as many genres as we can so that every couple of seasons every genre gets hit,” said Jennifer. “We do the musical comedies for that fan, a big children’s show for kids and then a highly acclaimed script for the serious theatre buff.”
For more information about ticketing and upcoming shows, visit www.seact.com or find their SEACT page on Facebook.