Reprinted with permission from The Telegraph from Editorial Page on Friday, January 8, 2010. (macon.com)
By Ed Corson
When I was a child, the world’s busiest stretch of railroad ran two blocks from our house in New Jersey. But because the sound of the trains had always been in my ears, I rarely noticed it.
Fast forward to 1967, when I arrived in Macon to teach at Mercer. Raised an hour’s trip from Broadway, my standard for theater and music, here I saw an entertainment wasteland.
There was no Macon Symphony Orchestra; no Middle Georgia Civic Chorale; no Theatre Macon. No Centreplex. The Grand was a rundown movie house.
Except for college-kid productions, this city boy’s idea of high-end entertainment was missing. The Civic Club musical then was a black-face minstrel show.
That community theater on Forsyth Road? I read mentions of the Macon Little Theatre but the “little” suggested amateurishness — maybe the hobby of a few socialites, but hardly performances worth my attention. As with the train noises of my childhood, they were there, but so what?
That changed in October 1970. A professor who had been reviewing cultural events for The Telegraph moved away. A theater minor in college, I auditioned to replace him by attending my first MLT play. After I rushed downtown and cranked out a reasonably informed review in under an hour, I had the job.
But something else happened to me that night. That theatrical train I hadn’t heard coming knocked me for a loop. Wow! Those MLT people knew what they were doing — not provincial dabblers but accomplished actors in a fine production. How long had this been going on? Later, I learned that during the MLT’s 36 years, some of these amateurs had played more varied and challenging parts than many Broadway professionals.
Since then I have been an annual MLT season-ticket holder. I’m not objective: my daughter now heads the MLT board, my son-in-law does lighting for many productions and both my granddaughters have appeared on stage.
Macon Little Theatre is in danger. And Macon would be much poorer without it — despite so many entertainment alternatives in Middle Georgia nowadays, including several other community theater groups.
The MLT has met a real need by producing several hundred plays for 76 unbroken years since the curtain first went up on March 15, 1934.
Generations of talented Middle Georgians who chose not to pursue the theater professionally could include theater in their lives. Generations of children, such as my daughter and grandchildren, would catch the theater virus at MLT and grow up to perform or replenish its audiences. Hundreds of volunteers have worked behind the scenes.
Above all, MLT has provided entertainment for the entire community. Its membership and casts are now racially diverse. For years it filled its 390-seat auditorium night after night. In almost every cast, theatre manager John T. Jones tells me, there are not only experienced players but at least one or two people making theatrical debuts. There’s a steady supply of new blood on stage.
The audience needs a transfusion, too. For many young Macon adults, MLT seems unknown or unnoticed — maybe because it has been here for so long, like the trains I never heard.
MLT almost went under in 2003 when a fiscal crisis arose. Its members rallied around and it survived. But now, economic hard times have cut deeply into its revenue. A nonprofit that receives no government funding on any level, it depends on grants, donations, a few corporate sponsors and, most of all, ticket sales for its survival.
And ticket sales must increase or a valuable resource will be lost. Check out www.maconlittletheatre.org. Go see the next play, which opens Feb. 5. You’ll be hooked, as I was nearly 40 years ago.
Ed Corson can be reached on line at email@example.com.