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Theater offers community supporting roles

To say David Clack works behind the scenes would reveal only one of his many roles at New London Theatre. Clack works around the stage, supervising volunteers; under the seats, making sure they're bolted down; and hand in hand with his daughter, Cassie, who brought him into the theater in the first place.

Years ago, Cassie wanted to perform in "Annie" and talked her dad into auditioning for a part.

"I fell in love with community theater," Clack said, "not necessarily for myself, but for the total involvement it has given me with my family."

"It also pulls different communities together," Cassie said. "We have actors from Grayson, Snellville, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Decatur and Loganville."

The theater has made a real production of the corner unit of the Big Lots shopping center in Snellville. Debbie Hughes, a music teacher, provided patrons a dramatic entry in the lobby with faux painted marble on castoff cabinetry from a wallpaper store that had gone out of business.

"We make whatever we can out of whatever we can get," Clack said.

Imagination can go a long way toward creating a theater, but insufficient funds can cause the final curtain to come down.

However, imagination can also work wonders with fundraising. New London Theatre President Kirk Buis listed many ways financial supporters have gotten into the act, including a generous grant from the Grassroots Council for the Arts.

"Local businesses have helped out by placing ads in their programs. Barnes & Noble offered coupons to their customers and gave a percentage of the sales to us. They were very generous," Buis said.

Kathi Mardis, publicist for the theater, praises merchants in the shopping center.

"Restaurant owners bring free snacks for the cast and have provided free refreshments for the performances. Some donate paper products and disposable items. They're all so supportive," she said.

"Summit Chase Country Club raised a lot of money for us when we performed Steel Magnolias at their clubhouse," Buis said. "With enough notice, we could work a show anywhere."

"We realize this was a financial risk, but we believe the community will support us," said Mardis, whose imagination knows no bounds.

On May 10, New London Theatre will sponsor an event that is the first of its kind in America. CharmaineJoan Hemmings will conduct a Speech and Elocution Festival, a century-old event that originated in her native Jamaica. This festival for youth participants encourages ethics in society and world peace. The competition will include original opinion pieces and classics from all cultures. The community can support these young participants by contributing prizes.

And for those who prefer to support the theater by playing a more passive part, there are plenty of those in the seats Clack bolted to the floor. For the new theater's grand opening, New London Theatre is performing "Godspell" through the end of February. For more information on future plays or how you can get play a supporting role, visit newlondon.homstead.com.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.