Let's all break a leg

Johnson City Press • Jun 23, 2019 at 8:15 AM

For more than two-thirds of Johnson City’s 150 years, neighbors and friends have entertained this town on stage.

They’ve practiced lines, learned songs and dance steps, built sets, sewn costumes and plastered on greasepaint for the sake of art and culture. There’s a certain charm about community theater you won’t get from a professional production. Who could forget seeing your coworker in a wig and a feather boa for a raucous comedy or hearing your dentist belt out a show tune?

For 107 years, that’s what the Johnson City Community Theatre has meant to people who love the performing arts here. It’s the longest-running community theater in Tennessee and the sixth longest in the whole nation.

The players change. The plays change. The audiences change. But the show goes on.

And that takes money. As Press Staff Writers Jonathan Roberts and Brandon Paykamian reported last week, the JCCT is in need. Between rising production costs and fluctuating funding, it’s becoming more and more difficult for such theaters to keep their doors open.

According to longtime member J.J. Jeffers, monthly operating costs for the theater are about $2,000. Rights for shows can routinely reach four- and five-figure sums.

A ticket runs about $15 for each show these days. The JCCT’s “black box” theater at East Maple and Afton streets seats 170 people. Just to cover operating costs, the theater needs to fill 150 each time a cast takes the stage. The rest comes from donations and other forms of community support.

Jeffers told the Press one financially tumultuous season could end the storied tradition.

“I don’t think we could suffer too many losses as far as too many shows that don’t produce a profit,” he said. “The past 10 years especially, we’ve stayed very close.”

What a shame it would be for such an iconic part of Johnson City’s culture to end. You can help keep the doors open in a number of ways.

The easiest way is to help fill the seats at each play. There are at least three productions planned for the remainder of 2019: “How I Learned to Drive” Sept. 12-22, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” Oct. 18-Nov. 2, and “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 5-22. Take your friends. Recommend the shows to others.

Secondly, both individual sponsors and businesses can support the theater with tax-deductible financial donations and in-kind gifts — everything from theatrical makeup to lumber is needed.

And finally, you can volunteer. If you are an actor, musician, artist, builder, designer, director, stagehand, techie — just about anything — the JCCT would welcome your hands.

For more about upcoming shows, how to give and how to volunteer, visit the theater’s website at jccommunitytheatre.org, call (423) 491-5053 or email info@jccommunitytheatre.org.

You’ll be helping keep culture and history alive.