August 3, 2009 Rotogram

SPOTLIGHT ON MSU ATHLETICS

      Greg Byrne’s first year as MSU Director of Athletics has been a busy and exciting one. Byrne, who joined the athletic staff as associate director in 2006, spoke to us shortly after he became director July 1, 2008. He returns today to review what’s been taking place and plans for the university’s athletic programs and facilities.

STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO SPEAK

      Next Monday, our guest will be Mississippi’s Attorney General Jim Hood. First elected AG in 2003 and reelected in 2007, he’s  often been in the center of controversy.

LAST WEEK AT ROTARY

Attendance: There were only 105 of our 195 members present last week (38 exempt and 67 active). Those unable to attend included 14 exempt,  59 active, all 10 honorary, and 4 members currently on leave.

Invocation and Pledge: Nancy Hargrove.

Guests: Club guests were Rotary Youth Exchange Students Francesca Scaravelli, newly arrived from Milan, Italy; Anna Follett, who will go to Bergamo, Italy in September; and Paul Sims, Starkville Daily News.

Meeting Notes: President Martha Wells presented a check for $1,000 to Mark Guyton representing the Pushmataha Council of Boy Scouts.

      She noted the 10th anniversary of the Mississippi Horse Park and congratulated Rotarian Bricklee Miller on her management of the facility and its  major economic impact on our community.

      A special meeting of the Board of Directors was held following adjournment.

Francesca Scaravelli and Anna Follett, two of our four Rotary Youth Exchange Ambassadors this year.

EXCHANGE STUDENT ARRIVES FROM ITALY.

      VP Tommy Tomlinson introduced Francesca Scaravelli, who arrived late Friday, July 24, from her home in Milan, Italy. She spent her first week with our outgoing student Anna Follett. Her first host family, David and Rachel McCann Lewis is returning from England today.

      Francesca presented Martha banners from her sponsoring district and from Italy. Influent English (she speaks three languages), she told us “Thank you  for hosting me. I’m excited to be in Starkville for this year.”

      SCT – THE PRIDE OF OUR COMMUNITY

      Starkville Community Theatre (SCT), now recognized as one of the nation’s best, was born in 1978 when more than 50 people responded to an invitation by Jan Zeppelin to a Chamber of Commerce sponsored meeting to discuss creating a community theatre.

      Among those who responded were last week’s speaker Bob Anderson and Rotarians Bob Wolverton and Chester McKee. Anderson, along with his late wife Mary Eleanor, became stalwarts as SCT was born and prospered in the ensuing years.

      Recalling the early beginnings, Anderson said “It really didn’t occur to us it would last this long.”   The group immediately began work on the first show and it was such a success they followed very soon with two more. The cast of actors must have felt like the old traveling minstrel shows, moving from venue to venue over the next 20+ years. The first production was in the ballroom of the old Ramada Inn (now University Inn).

      In the following years the productions (three per year) were staged in the old Fred’s Dollar Store on Lafayette Street (columns there were a problem they worked around). In the old Boardtown Cafeteria, Anderson said they built the stage atop the steam tables. That lasted until the building burned down (“we didn’t do it,” Anderson quipped).

      The County Agricultural Building was used for several performances. “It was a metal building with a metal roof and when it rained, we simply stopped the action until the rain stopped because the audience couldn’t hear!”

      Because Bob Wolverton was on the MSU faculty, they were able to move to the campus, but conflicts caused them to be constantly on the move – Lee Hall, the Vet School Auditorium, the Union’s small auditorium, and later (when it had seats) McComas Hall.

      They needed a permanent home and they got the break they needed in 1995 when the Katz family decided to go out of business and made SCT an attractive offer. “My wife was president then,” Anderson said. “We had to gut the building. We took out walls. We removed three or four ceilings before we  got to the roof.

      They  were able to purchase 89 new theatre seats

from a church in Memphis. They constructed a stage, built dressing rooms, installed  lighting, and. added a box office and lobby The former retail store was transformed into a permanent home – The Playhouse on Main.

      Anderson said he figured the project was completed with something like 5,000 volunteer man-hours. “Our first show was in January. We had no working heater but we passed out quilts and blankets for the audience and they didn’t seem to mind.”

      In 1999, volunteers again mobilized to transform the space above the front box office/lobby area into an attractive meeting/banquet room.

      They added a special production for youth to their progamming. . Later, a musical revue joined the three or more plays produced annually. Three performances of each production was the norm for a number of years, but because they were almost always sold out, SCT now has gone to nine performances of each production. (One wonders how these talented folks fit this into their busy working lives! It’s obvious they love performing.)

      In 2003, with financial support from the community and a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission, they built on an addition and renovated major parts of the production area behind the stage. “Dan Camp helped with the design and served as a consultant. Total cost was $170,000 and we finished with no debt.”

      With its award-winning performances of “Catfish Moon” in state, regional, and national competition SCT is unquestionably one of the best community theatres in the country.  And Bob Anderson’s involvement since the beginning was recognized recently when the American  Association of Community Theatres gave him one of two Special Awards.

ACTIONS BY THE BOARD

      Joe Ed Vickery, who tendered his resignation from the Club for reasons of health, was instead accorded Honorary Life Member status by the Board of Directors. He has been a Rotarian since 1982.

      The Board accepted with regret the resignation of Brian Lesley, who has found it impossible to attend and participate in Rotary because of work conflicts.

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