On a magical night in December of 2019, the members of the Fulton County Amateur Thespians stood hand-in-hand before an adoring crowd and took a bow. The then newly-formed theatrical troupe had just completed the final performance of their inaugural production of To All A Good Night, an original Christmas musical, to another full house at the HeARTery, in Kewanna, Indiana. It was undeniably a success, and the story behind this nascent young theater company’s meteoric rise is practically the stuff of a young playwright’s dreams.
The origin of the Fulton County Amateur Thespians can be traced back to an un-theatrical Pre-Calculus class. Co-founder Reagan Trottier recalls that the notion emerged during a discussion with classmates Jacob Salyer and Reagan Becker, fellow members of Rochester High School Tri-Epsilon, the school’s drama club. “We felt like we needed more opportunities to perform since our school had never had a winter show before,” Raegan says. “We also thought it would be cool to try to do something more community based and not (just) through the school’s program.”
As the idea took root and began to gain momentum, fellow students and a handful of adults stepped up to join and encourage this exciting new venture. Determined to put together their first show in a short time, they enlisted many of the people involved in school productions. They set out to create an original student-written and directed production, with some adult help, featuring classic holiday tunes and an original composition by young thespian Kristian Lingenfelter. As the show began to take shape and rehearsals got underway, Raegan began to appreciate how much community goes into ‘community theater’.
THE SUPPORTING CAST
“My family and friends gave an abundance of support, and my mom, Mollie Trottier, even helped as a supervisor during To All A Good Night. Laura Friend, who directed me in previous school productions, helped with editing and character development, and Hope Showley, my former English teacher, played the piano for the show,” she said. “And I would also like to shout out Maria Kelsey who has, not only, been one of our biggest supporters from the start, but also the chief adult supervisor and lighting operator for the show.”
It was Maria who found the venue for the troupe to stage the show. It would have become the first in (what would have been) an ongoing effort to bring theatrical productions to the community. With the enthusiasm of a successful production at their backs, the troupe was looking forward to their next show. Unfortunately, even the best-laid plans were derailed by the COVID-19 crisis. As they wait for the world to return to some semblance of normal, the Fulton County Amateur Thespians are in the wings with an eye on the future.
REHEARSING FOR THE FUTURE
“Our goal is to do both plays and musicals- mostly originals since we don’t have enough money to buy the performance rights to any well-known shows,” Raegan says. “Eventually we would like to put on established plays and musicals for the community but in the meantime, some of our members are actually in the process of writing new material right now.”
Among her wish list of shows she would love to do, Trottier cites such classic and contemporary shows as South Pacific, Les Miserables, Steel Magnolias, and Funny Girl, the musical that launched Barbara Streisand as a star. But no matter what the production slate ahead, the group aspires to expand the involvement of other members of the community, allowing people of all ages to participate and embrace the arts even more. In addition to opening the audition process to better serve the material, there is potential for graphic artists, costume designers, set builders, and those who could contribute their skills creating, advertising, and executing a memorable theater experience.
“Getting community involvement in future shows would be a dream come true,” Raegan says, optimistically looking towards having a local community theater building in the future. “I think the arts have a big influence on people’s happiness and appreciation of others around them, and our job is to give the community the chance to embrace the arts more.”
You can follow the Fulton County Amateur Thespians on their Facebook page to stay up to date on future performances, auditions, and their other community activities. They welcome questions and suggestions, as well as donations.