The lobby of the Pilot Point Opera House bustles with actors and crew of Steel Magnolias, the upcoming show produced by the fledgling community theater, the Garage Door Theatre.
Production manager Monica David takes a seat with the cast and crew. Tex-Mex is on the menu for this appreciation dinner. For each show the company has staged in its first two seasons, the company treats its volunteers to dinner. Denton resident and director Bill Kirkley taps a vase to quiet the lobby.
“Hey, everyone,” Kirkley said. “Please keep eating. I just wanted to take a moment to thank Monica for tonight’s dinner. Finish up and then we’ll get to warm-ups and start rehearsal.”
David said the company came together after Pilot Point residents selected a board and raised money to open the Pilot Point Community Opera House in 2007. In 1894, when Pilot Point’s downtown square was built, the opera house was a grand, two-story performance hall. The building fell on hard times, and eventually, the second story was demolished. The space has been many things — including a garage, which inspired the managing company’s name.
“Starting in 2008, [the Pilot Point Community Opera House] started doing melodramas,” David said. “They’d do one every now and again.”
David retired from Texas Health Resources in 2016, and the opera house leadership approached her with a proposition: Would she take on the development of a theatrical season and take the reins on managing the opera house? David said yes. She had experience on stage, performing with Butterfield Stage Players in Gainesville. Off stage, she had organizational chops.
“I didn’t want to do just the melodramas,” she said. “I wanted us to do quality theater. Our first performance [as the Garage Door Theatre] was January of 2017. We staged Rumors.”
The company stages five plays a season, and this summer, the company will stage its first musical — Frankenstein.
David also guided the Garage Door Theatre through its role as the managing, resident company at the opera house. Part of her work has been to lead the venue’s renovation.
“When the opera house first opened, we just had these orange chairs and no stage, really. Just the cement floor,” she said. “We did some fundraising and built the stage, and then we got the chairs from the Glen Campbell [Goodtime] Theatre in Branson, Missouri.”
Pilot Point area businesses stepped up to help. A drywall company’s donations funded the stage, and a local cabinet business built a bar for the lobby.
It didn’t take long for the opera house and the theater company to attract audiences.
“We had to turn people away during the run of Twelve Angry Men,” David said. “I think part of it was that we were doing shows regularly. People starting hearing that we’re here and we’re doing something. And then as we started renovating, people would come in and look around. They’d tell people and they wanted to see what we’d done.”
David said there are more plans for the space. The Garage Door Theatre will add insulation and will make improvements in phases.
In the meantime, David said, the company continues to attract actors from The Colony, Little Elm, Frisco, Gainesville and more recently, from Denton.
“I’ve never done anything at Pilot Point before,” Kirkley said. “They had decided to do Steel Magnolias, but their first director couldn’t do the show.”
The second director told David his job was transferring out of state.
“We were just a few months out and we didn’t have a director, so I sent an email to the folks at Gainesville and Denton and some other places. Bill emailed me,” David said.
Kirkley had directed the show before in Denton and felt like he could pull something together quickly. The show by Robert Harling, and Kirkley’s network in Denton, brought Denton actresses Sharon Barnhill, Kay Lamb and Kerri Peters to auditions. Micha Marie Stevens, who has appeared in close to a dozen Denton productions, was cast as well. Barnhill plays the role of hairdresser and beauty parlor Truvy Jones. Lamb plays Ouiser Boudreaux. Peters plays newbie and just-out-of-beauty-school girl Annelle Dupuy DeSoto and Stevens plays Shelby Eatenton. Judy Lewis, a Savannah resident, plays Clairee Belcher and Mary Rak plays M’Lynn Eatenton.
Denton resident Perry Goodwyn is making the drive to Pilot Point to fill the stage manager’s shoes.
“It’s been really cool getting to know the people out here in Pilot Point,” Kirkley said. “The ladies from Denton like the show. I can see Pilot Point drawing a lot of people who look for roles in community theater all over North Texas.”
Before the cast and crew threw away their paper plates and headed to the stage for warm ups, David made an announcement.
“This is the biggest opening night we’ve ever had,” David said. Kirkley said ticket sales have been brisk. Steel Magnolias is a popular comedy, and the movie celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
The play opens Friday. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and April 26-27. A matinee will be 2:30 p.m. April 28. The Pilot Point Community Opera House is located at 110 S. Washington St. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and military veterans and $10 for children. For reservations, visit www.garagetheatre.org.