Children's Theatre, Classes, Community Theatre
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In 1991 Boerne resident Deloris Littlejohn took steps to charter a nonprofit community theatre under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Littlejohn consulted with Enid Holm of Texas Nonprofit Theatres; Zada Janzen, founder of S.T.A.G.E. Theatre in Bulverde; and Steven Stoli, owner of a theatre in San Antonio. Littlejohn, Jack Simmons, Mike Arthur, Marsha Slocomb, Ed Martin, John Ebner and Andy Hix made up the theatre's first board of directors. Hix, an attorney, drew up the papers for incorporation as BACC-Door Theatre and for the organization's nonprofit status. The board also developed bylaws and a mission statement.
The new theatre's name recognized the Boerne Area Community Center, which was its first playhouse. The primary purposes of the organization were to provide a vehicle for the education, production and development of performing arts, including dramatic, musical and related cultural productions, and to encourage community participation in all aspects of its activities. BACC-Door Theatre's first production was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, directed by Roy Stewart and choreographed by Le Jones. From 1991 to 1997 the BACC-Door Theatre produced at least one show a year. In addition to fulfilling its chartered purpose, the theatre promoted activity in the community center and supported the center through fees paid for its use.
With a growing list of regular patrons from San Antonio, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, Bandera, Ingram and New Braunfels, the theatre's board of directors in the spring of 1997 sought a new location that would be available exclusively for the theatre's use. That dream was realized when Jerry and Shirley Rittimann made part of the building at 809 North Main Street an option. Volunteers converted a dress shop into a performance space with seating for 50 people.
The Board of Directors changed the organization's name to Back Door Theatre and planned a five-show season for September 1997-August 1998, with season ticket sales. Each show had eight performances over three weekends. Response to promotion and increased attendance at performances gave the group the incentive to continue. By the spring of 1998 many performances were selling out. That summer the theatre had its first children's summer camp under the direction of Betty Steubing, a local theatre teacher. It received a computer from the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation.
In May 1999 the Board of Directors decided to reorganize to promote further growth and community outreach. It rewrote the bylaws, reestablished itself as a Board of Governors with specific duties for each board member and instituted a membership program. Theatre members receive benefits in addition to season tickets: a newsletter, recognition for donor-level members and invitations to special events. Giving levels include regular and donor-level members. Donors give at least $125 and receive recognition in performance programs. The top level of membership, $1,000, was Co-producer. Co-producers receive a special performance and recognition in all publicity for their show. Since September 1999 every regular production has had a co-producer. Membership grew from 35 to 95 for the 1999-2000 season. In February 2003 the theatre had 183 members, 37 of them donor-level. Membership renewals exceed 60 percent.
The theatre was growing in its Main Street location, but it didn't always remain within those walls. It took a number of performances to other locations. In early 1998 the cast and crew of I Take This Man did a weekend of shows at the Fair Oaks Country Club. In 1999 and 2000 Jack Simmons and Susan Howard, an actress well known for her roles on TV's "Dallas" and "Petrocelli," performed Love Letters at Fair Oaks and the Guadalupe Valley River Ranch.
In 1999 Back Door Theatre received a $10,000 grant from the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation to develop a strategic plan. Key elements of that plan were to increase outreach to the community and to purchase or build a larger playhouse to meet the resulting audience growth. General audience numbers increased significantly in the 1999-2000 season. The December production, A Christmas Carol, was sold out by opening night. For the 2000-2001 season, the board voted to extend each show's run to 11 performances over four weekends to meet audience demands. In 2000 and 2001 the theatre had New Year's Eve dances as fundraisers at the Boerne Community Center. Although the events were popular with those who attended, the theatre did not turn a profit.
The theatre continues its tradition of support to the Boerne community. In 2000 the Governing Board established a scholarship program, giving a $500 grant to a college-bound senior. In 2002 the board voted to offer two $500 grants. Recipients have included Chris Ahr, Mimi Wiggins, Chris Davis and Ashleigh Bowerman.
The theatre put on a special production in May 2001 to raise money for Hill Country Family Services, collecting more than $4,000. The theatre also donates tickets to local organizations for fundraising raffles and silent auctions. Back Door Theatre continued its outreach to young people. Some regular-season shows have parts for children. Summer drama camp enrollment increased, and the board planed two sessions for 2003. Many young people have volunteered to build sets, work backstage or at the concession stand.
The theatre's growing reputation and popularity continued to take it outside its playhouse. The players have performed at Fair Oaks Country Club, Tapatio Resort, Guadalupe Valley River Ranch, Dominion Country Club, the old Kendall County Courthouse, the Boerne Area Community Center and along Main Street for the Boerne Merchants Association's annual Dickens on Main festival. With audiences continuing to grow, the Governing Board voted in September 2002 to add two more performances to each show's run. With the theatre's significant growth, the demands increased on board members and other volunteers. In 2002 the board established the theatre's first paid position, a part-time managing director. A benefactor donated part of the first year's salary. Michael Monaco was hired in September to oversee the theatre's day-to-day business operations. In May 2003 Tracy Littlejohn, a former board member, replaced Monaco. In late 2002 the Governing Board again revised the bylaws and agreed to update its strategic plan in early 2003. The board also voted to change the name of Back Door Theatre to Boerne Community Theatre. The group thought the new name better reflected the organization's nature. In the fall of 2003 the theatre established a new group, the Teen Troupe. It consisted of middle-and high-school students advised by Sheldon Boyce, drama teacher at Boerne Middle School North. The teens had responsibility for all aspects of production: directing, casting, locating props, costumes and set pieces, and publicity. The troupe mounted four productions in its first year: Arsenic and Old Lace, The Gift of the Magi, Rehearsal for Murder and Barefoot in the Park.
In 2003 the board renamed the managing director position to business manager and converted it to a nonpaying position. The theatre's 2004 drama camp took place at the First Presbyterian Church. The board updated its strategic plan in November 2004. Construction of a new facility remained a priority. Improvement of the theatre's volunteer program also became a goal.
In early 2005 the board named former board member Patty Loftis to the unpaid position of artistic director. Later in the year she replaced Tracy Littlejohn as business manager. The board combined the artistic director and business manager positions under the title executive director and again funded the position, with Patty Loftis in place.
In November 2005 the theatre's governing board learned that a larger facility, the Oneighty Club on Blanco Road, was for sale. The board received permission from Mike Loftis to sell the 2.6 acre property he had donated and use the proceeds as down payment on the new property. The board renewed the capital campaign with President Carol Bidus as chairman. The campaign received donations from the Kronkosky Foundation, the Meadows Foundation and other significant sources. The theatre "sold" new chairs for $1,000 donations. The theatre used those funds to renovate the facility in 2006 and 2007. BCT moved from the North Main Street space to the new theatre at 907 E. Blanco Road in March 2007. The first season production in the renovated playhouse was Light in the Tunnel. The larger facility enabled the theatre to expand its offerings in its 2007-2008 season. In addition to five season productions and the traditional holiday offering of A Christmas Carol, the schedule included two Teen Troupe productions, a spring special and three sessions of its drama camp. One of the camp sessions took place at the Geneva School in Boerne.
The theatre's increased business necessitated the creation of a second part-time paid position, box office manager. Board member Patricia Hausman was hired.The Teen Troupe's resurgence took place under the leadership of Hausman, a former drama teacher. She reorganized the group, which grew to more than 30 middle- and high-school students. In addition to producing two one-weekend shows in the 2007-2008 season, the teens performed at Cibolo Nature Center and several other locations. In 2009 the teens for the first time attended the Texas Nonprofit Theatres youth conference. They attended again in 2010. In 2009 Hausman was designated BCT youth director. In that capacity she oversaw the drama camp as well as the Teen Troupe.
The theatre had a fundraising Mardi Gras gala in February 2008 at the Boerne Vistro. The event included dinner, silent and live auctions and entertainment by the BCT Singers. The event was successful and became an annual tradition and a significant fundraiser.
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