In the summer of 1981 Ann Adcock, Gwen Allison, Leslie Anderson, Paula Beck, Bob Buckle, Flo Conner, J.W. and Lola Dennis, Carol Dyer, Shelley and Gary Barron, Sally and Willis Gresham, Carole Hill, Pat Newberry, Neil O’Brien, Dois Pace, Jimmie Pace, Beth Patterson, Jim and Linda Pogue, Cookie Pucket, and Carter Schildknecht joined forces in forming a theater group in Lamesa. Since the group had no funds with which to produce its first show, a script had to be written. In just a few months, a melodrama, Skulduggery on the Square, was ready for production thanks to Pat Newberry and Carole Hill. The script contained music, comedy and drama as well as oleos. Over forty people took the stage for the first run and another seventy worked on various crews from publicity, scrapbook, and programs to lights, sound, and house management. These children made their LCP debut that night: Josh Barron, Sarah Newberry, Pam Pace, Chris Webb and Lindsey Wilkes. It was a miracle that so many people turned out to organize theater in Lamesa, but it happened, and it remains a lasting miracle that the community continues their support.
After several performances of that first show, the group had operating funds. A nine member Board of Directors were elected with Dois Pace as president; Paula Beck, vice president; Jimmie Pace, secretary; and Lola Dennis, treasurer. Bylaws were drawn up by Willis Gresham, who sat in as legal advisor, and the following board members served that first year: Flo Conner, Sally Gresham, Pat Newberry, and Cookie Puckett. Ticket sales took place in the home of Flo Conner as she and Lola Dennis took calls daily.
The organization officially named itself Lamesa Community Players as “Think Theater” became the club’s motto. In the early days the players ambitiously presented four shows a year, which in later years would be reduced to three.
With no place to perform, the old Forrest Park Community Building served as a good venue for gathering audiences. Rehearsals were held several nights a week in the building (now H&R Block) next door to the old Anthony’s (now Beall’s). Also performed at the community building was the second show “Barefoot in the Park”, a Neil Simon comedy, directed by Paula Beck and Gwen Allison, starring Larry Allison, Charlotte Culwell, Cookie Puckett, Jim Pogue, and Bob Geiger. However, since the third show was a musical and needed a stage, “Kiss Me Kate” directed by Paula Beck and Sally Gresham opened in the high school auditorium in the spring of 1982.
Having successfully completed its first season of shows with satisfied audiences, it was time to find a permanent home for the theater. In the summer of 1982 LCP was able to purchase the old Western Auto building at 212 North Austin where it has remained for the past thirty years. The first show in the new building was a melodrama, “Bad Day at Gopher’s Breath” directed by Jim Pogue and choreographed by his wife Linda. This show was performed on the flat concrete because a stage had yet to be constructed. The audiences sat in folding chairs with tables built by Rodney Felts in front of them for drinks and popcorn to throw at the villain. In the first few years before the lobby restrooms were added, audiences would go across the street during intermission to Bill Gerber Insurance and use his office restrooms. Bill generously donated the toilet paper.
In addition, the group established a kind of Oscar awards celebration, which was named La Copa, meaning “the cup” and would be held annually each January. These awards were gradually rescheduled for Valentine’s Day and have been revised through the years but generally include the following awards: male and female rookie of the year, best supporting actress/actor, best actress/actor, best juvenile male and female rookies, best juvenile actress/actor, and best supporting juvenile actress/actor.
A worker of the year was added that same year to be presented to the person who had given of his time throughout the year or done something outstanding for the theater. It was named the J.W. Dennis Worker of the Year awar, after our beloved friend who had unexpectedly died that year, having given so much of his time and energy into helping convert and old hardware store into a theater.
Since its beginnings in 1981, both KPET and The Lamesa Press Reporter have covered every performance and generously helped out with ticket sales, fundraisers, promotions, and graciously gotten word to the public about any changes the club has made.
The Players held a walkathon fundraiser in the fall of 1982 for building a new stage and purchasing a theater curtain, which profited over $12,000 and the stage was completed by November for Noel Coward’s “Waiting in the Wings” directed by Gwen Allison and Lola Dennis. Those who made their LCP debut on this first stage were: Kathleen Brown, Fay Collins, Nan Ellis, Carole Hill, Sally Gresham, Ernie Mize, Pat Newberry, Paula Parker, Cookie Puckett, Betty Smith, Louise Ward, Connie Williams, and Ellie Wilson with all of these ladies participating in the fundraiser walk at the high school track.
In that same year, Skeet and Sarah Noret donated some 200 theater seats which remain in the building today. And thanks to their generous donation audiences have enjoyed the comfort of a theater seat and said goodbye to the old folding chairs. Dan Adcock spent countless hours creating a lighting and technical booth and installing new stage lights which remain today. Thanks to Dan, the light still shines.
The first musical opening in the new building to a sell out crowd was “Annie Get Your Gun” directed by Anne Adcock and Jimmie Pace and starring Beth Patterson and Chris Boyd joined by a show stopping cast. It was then that the group purchased a piano and added an orchestra to its performances. The show ran for two weekends and proved that Lamesa loved musicals. Because of Jimmie and Anne, who would do many more musicals through the years, the organization continues to present musicals on a regular basis. It was their initial production that has inspired LCP in accomplishing the most difficult tasks.
Through the years stars, directors, and crew members and board members have come and gone, but the theater lives on in Lamesa.