Arcado Community Theatre takes a final bow

After 20 years of bringing musical theatre to the outer 'burbs of metro Atlanta, Arcado Community Theatre is taking its final bow. When the curtain comes down on the last performance of "Sweet Charity," to be held at the Shiloh High School auditorium March 7-9, this pioneering arts group will disperse.

For founder, director, choreographer and overall mentor Myrna Feldman, it is a bittersweet moment, but it isn't the end. She says, "I am thrilled that we've had this really long run, but this isn't the end of theatre for me. I am going on to do other things, and the friends I've made are still here. We are just going to enjoy our future successes elsewhere."

When Feldman was asked by Arcado Elementary School Principal Jean Murphy to direct a play for the students in 1987, she had no way of knowing what was in store. "It was a fifth-grade musical and involved all the children in that grade. We produced 'The Ransom of Red Chief,'" she says.

The success of these first ventures in theatre for many local children and adults led to bigger and more ambitious productions.

"The teachers wanted to get involved, so we started producing such shows as 'The Wizard of Oz' and then 'Cinderella.' In 1993, we presented 'Fiddler on the Roof' and moved to the Parkview High School stage. This was such a success that we opened the experience up to the whole community and started to produce one big musical a year," Feldman explains.

From its educational beginnings, Arcado Community Theatre has since presented 16 traditional Broadway musicals under Feldman's direction. Although there was only one production mounted per year, Arcado remains the long running theatre group in the county.

"We offered reasonable prices, and we are close to our audiences' homes," Feldman says. "We are the essence of the term 'grassroots.'"

Sixteen years of community theatre can offer many memories. Feldman muses about "our share of backstage romances and divas. But we have always been a family. We've shared weddings and funerals."

Two things made closing the theatre inevitable. The core of the group was dispersing, moving on to other locales and other interests. Plus, Gwinnett now offers a wide variety of activities, including other theatrical experiences.

A way of going out with a bang, Feldman says "Sweet Charity" will delight audiences.

"It's one of the biggest comedies we've ever done," she says. "Lindsay Masland as Charity totally captures the spirit of the character, and Steve Miller's Oscar is comedic timing at its best."

The show includes a cast of 20, and another 10 support the backstage and administrative aspects of putting on a show.

"Friendships are everlasting. Plus, I have been able to exercise the creativity inside me year after year. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Arcado Community Theatre has offered me," Feldman says.

"Sweet Charity" will be presented at Shiloh High School at 8 p.m. March 7 and 8 and at 3 p.m. March 9. Tickets are $10. For information, call 770-921-2557.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail hcalmes@mindspring.com.