ORANGE – Paul Burch believes that every community should have an active theater effort because it brings people together.
“Art is always good for your mind,” he said. “It’s a way for those of us who couldn’t make it to New York to continue doing theater and the things that we love and play for people. It keeps the love going.
Burch, who is president of Orange Community Players, is helping lead the renovation of the old Bowling Lane cinema.
Those passing by the community landmark can see the work being done in an effort organizers hope to shape community theater in the county for decades to come.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Burch said. “The actors in the Beaumont community have done the same thing, except theirs is much bigger. They walk us through the things they did that made their build successful. We will do the same.
Orange community stakeholders are working to raise $1.5 million to renovate the 50-yformer movie theater in a future location called “Jeff Hattman Center for Performing Arts”.
Burch is confident in the eventual success of the project, noting that the Orange community gamers have been around for about 70 years thanks to the love and support of many.
“It’s community,” he said. “I know they will continue to support him. This will open doors and progress for years to come.
The Orange Community Players Building campaign includes numerous donation and sponsorship opportunities.
For $500, a name can be put on the donor wall in the lobby; for $1,000, a chair with an engraved name will be installed; and there are two naming opportunities for $15,000 at the concession stand box office.
There are $25,000 denomination opportunities for projectors and the light and sound package.
Larger naming opportunities include $50,000 for the lobby, $80,000 for the black box/studio theater and $100,000 for main stage theater.
Those interested in donating or wanting to learn more about the project are asked to log on to ocplayers.org or call 409-206-0392.
House for all
Codie Vasquez, who serves as vice president of the theater’s board of directors, has been involved with Orange Community Players since 2005, when a friend mentioned a summer camp that seemed appropriate for her then 10-year-old son.
“Then there was a production that needed extra kids,” she recalls. “From there, my husband, myself and my son were all involved. Maybe about two or three years later I was elected to the board.
She calls the community theater an island for the misfits that welcomes all children and adults who might not fit into sports or college groups. She emphasized that everyone is welcome and there is plenty to do for those who do not wish to be on stage.
She said the best part of the renovated venue is its inclusion of a black box theater and a main theater.
“Black box studio theater will be more versatile with more intimate settings,” Vasquez said. “Obviously we will be able to hold more performances because we will have rehearsal space for two different performances at once.”
Orange Community Players was originally founded as “Town Theatre” in 1950. Productions took place at Helen Carr High School and Anderson Elementary School. In 1957, the Town Theater was renamed “Orange Community Players”.
Johnnie Faye Jeff Hattman was instrumental in starting and sustaining the theater troupe. The building will be renamed in his honor.
She began her teaching career at Cove Elementary and ended it 34 years later at Little Cypress Mauriceville High School, where she directed 12 musicals and 12 one-act plays.
Hattman was a founding member of Orange Community Players in 1951, where she made “Hello Dolly”, “Music Man”, “Quilters”, the entire “Nunsense” series, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” , “South Pacific” and many more, all with the tireless support of her husband, Sam.
The production group was housed at its former location on Division Avenue from 1960 to 2017.