In the spring of 2002, Nicholas W. Inman gathered a small group of people consisting of performers, local enthusiasts and supporters of the performing arts. The purpose of the informal meeting was to discuss the individual and collective aspirations for a local community group that would present and mount its own productions. Coincidentally, a new high school had just been opened, and the attached state-of-the-art auditorium had been dedicated in February 2002. Monies for this auditorium had been donated by a local family who wished the auditorium to be used not only as a venue for the school’s performances but also for the community’s performing art endeavors. Working alongside the Marshfield Public School Foundation, theater enthusiasts, including Inman, were brought together to form a local group which would present various types of live entertainment in this new venue.
The group was created and named the Marshfield Performing Arts Society, under the umbrella of the School Foundation.
The core charter committee consisted of Nicholas W. Inman, Jo Walker, Connie Toler, Martha Fogelsong (Member of the School Foundation), Sandee DePriest, Carolyn Thompson (Member of the School Foundation) and Susie Knust.
They organized a small fundraiser, a variety show, which was held in the spring of 2002 at the new auditorium, under the auspices of MPAS. At this point in time, however, MPAS was not yet a formal organization. After that initial fundraiser, another meeting was held which was attended by many local teachers, performers, musicians and community members. At this meeting, it was decided that the fledgling group would mount a full-blown production at the new auditorium. Seed money to fund the production was obtained from voluntary contributions at the meeting and a director was chosen. When the ticket price of $10.00 was suggested by the director, several volunteers balked at the amount. The director assured them that those who paid the $10.00 ticket price would receive a $20.00 show!
The production, “An Evening with Gershwin,” was presented in October 2003 to an enthusiastic, one-night-only crowd of over 500. With the critical and financial success of “Gershwin,” MPAS started making plans for a musical theatre production. However, due to the cost and availability of the community auditorium, they began to make plans for smaller productions and events. It was hoped that these events would help raise funds for the large musical theatre production planned for the summer of 2004.
House concerts and children’s theatre activities were organized. The intimate house concerts were held in the Jubilee Theatre and showcased local musicians – bluegrass, folk, country, and Celtic. A production of “Sleeping Beauty” was presented as a joint venture with Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. A children’s theatre workshop was held to provide basic training and experience in preparation for “The Wizard of Oz” production planned for July 2004.
In the spring of 2004, auditions were held and more than 40 children were included in a large cast of “The Wizard of Oz.” Once again, rehearsals were held in churches and occasionally at the Jubilee Theatre. Sometimes rehearsals were held at three or four different locations during the same week. Despite the logistical challenges “The Wizard of Oz” was extremely successful and MPAS was officially embraced by the Marshfield community. In December, a production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” presented at the Jubilee Theatre, was also popular.
Marshfield’s Sesquicentennial was in 2005. To honor this milestone, MPAS’ President, Sam Casey, wrote “The Maypole,” a theatrical representation of the history of Marshfield. MPAS presented this production during the 4th of July weekend. Since many of the scenes and musical numbers were self-contained, rehearsals were held mostly in private homes. This production, though not a typical big-book musical, was well received by the community.
MPAS presented “The Sound of Music” in July of 2006. Once again, rehearsals were held in many different settings, sometimes even outdoors in parking lots. The production itself was very successful. The MPAS board felt that it had the potential to provide a permanent role in the future of Marshfield and Webster County. Long-term goals were reevaluated, and it was decided that the primary goal at this time was to procure a “home” where MPAS could hold auditions, rehearsals, and meetings. It would also be ideal if small productions could be held in this new home. MPAS began a focused search for its home.
The year 2007 was significant in several ways. A small building dubbed “The Outback” was rented and MPAS had its home! For a spring performance of MPAS’ first non-musical, the community auditorium was snagged for the only available weekend, that of Holy Week. Rehearsals in The Outback began for “Arsenic and Old Lace.” The audiences who attended the performances were pleased and impressed.
The summer 2007 production of “The Music Man” again brought in large crowds and income. A new type of production that would also prove successful was a fundraiser which included dinner and a murder mystery. These shows were very popular and have become an annual event which is highly anticipated by many in the community. The first murder mystery was held in October 2007.
Significantly, MPAS began giving back to the community by establishing a scholarship fund in 2007. Every year since then, a $500 scholarship has been awarded to a graduating senior who has contributed to MPAS events and/or productions. One year, two $500 scholarships were awarded. MPAS is very proud of this endeavor and has seen the scholarship recipients succeed in their chosen vocation and bring honor to the community.
In April 2011, MPAS’ need for more space for props, small set items and costumes led to a move into a larger building next door. Although not ideal, it allowed the organization to rehearse and stage small productions in the same building. The large back room was painted black and coined “the black box theatre.” Multiple dinner theatres, workshops, and children’s productions were hosted in the building.
In the spring of 2012, the membership voted to change the organization’s name to Marshfield Community Theatre (MCT) to better reflect the group’s theatrical focus. MCT set a goal to generate at least four productions each year, including the summer musical and a children’s production. A new twist was introduced by the group in October 2014 with the launching of a haunted house for the community’s entertainment. This venture was so successful that it was revamped for 2015 and is now planned to be an annual event.
Fifteen years after its first mounted production, MPAS (now MCT) has definitely carved out a unique place in the performing arts environment of Marshfield and Webster County, as well as in the hearts of area residents. MCT draws performers and audiences from Springfield and many other surrounding communities. The organization has garnered a reputation for quality live theatre, and is known as “the community theatre with heart.”