Muncie Civic Theatre presents "Mary Poppins" as the fifth main stage production of the 85th season. Volunteers rehearsed for three hours every Sunday through Thursday night for six weeks. DESIREE WILLIAMS
Theatre connects with community through performance, education and outreach
Musicians begin to play. Actors practice their lines. Crew members prepare to flip the stage. All of whom have donated their time to the theatre.
Volunteers play an important role in running the civic theatre in Muncie, Indiana. Without willing community members, the show will not go on.
Muncie Civic Theatre and its volunteers have been producing shows for more than 80 years, with June bringing the end of its 85th season. Chris Griffith, business director, said he is thrilled to be involved right now.
“To be here at a time when we are planning for the next century of this building and an organization that will last longer than I’ll be alive, it’s exciting to be a part of that,” Griffith said.
Muncie Civic Theater began as a community group at the Masonic Temple, which is now used by Cornerstone Center for the Arts. In March 1931, William H. Ball and other community members signed the Articles of Incorporation while they were still working at the Masonic Temple. It wasn’t until 1961 that Muncie Civic Theater moved to its current location at 216 E. Main St.
Griffith joined the theatre in 2007 as a volunteer during his time as a student at Ball State University. After graduating in 2012, he was hired full time as the business director. Griffith oversees operations of the theater including taxes, insurance and human resources.
“Think of all the fun stuff that comes with the theater, and I do the other stuff. That’s what I tell people,” Griffith joked.
He wanted to work at the theatre because he realized how much it impacts the Muncie community.
“Not only are these stories that we’re telling on stage bringing fairytales to life for some people, but at the same time the fairytale story of the people that are participating is visible as well,” Griffith said.
Muncie Civic Theatre employs eight executives along with the box office staff, and occasionally pays people if they need training to work the sound board or specific equipment such as a fly system. However, the rest of the participants are volunteers. The actors, directors and entire crew are community members who choose to contribute because they love the theatre.
Muncie resident Amy Leffingwell is an actress and works as a crew member from time to time. She joined the theatre at her daughter’s request, but then she was hooked.
“In my real world, sometimes I feel like kind of a misfit. But here, I feel normal,” Leffingwell said. “We turn into kind of a family.”
Ball State student Brad Morrison, a senior sociology major, joined in February 2015 when he was cast in Peter Pan as the lead lost boy.
“[Community theatre] really has changed my life,” Morrison said. “It will always be a part of me.”
Apart from performances, the Muncie Civic Theatre also focuses on education and outreach within the community.
Education programs are geared toward the youth of Muncie. One program pairs children with Ball State theatre education majors who work throughout the semester to direct their own production.
Another aspect of the theatre’s mission is to connect with the community. Within that, there are two main parts: outreach to at-risk and low income children, and outreach to those with special abilities. These programs focus on increasing self-confidence and fostering personal growth.
Muncie Civic Theatre has been an integral part of the community for 85 years. Griffith thinks the theatre has lasted so long because people need time to shut out the world and be entertained.
“If we don’t keep things like the theater or art in our lives, what are we living for?” Griffith said.