“Looking through this time capsule of a box is so interesting to me,” Brooks said. “I really like seeing the newspaper clippings and photos from older shows and to see that we’re still doing a lot of those shows today. I see clippings from productions of ‘Harvey,’ ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ and many more that we have mounted recently. And the lapels and bell bottoms in some of these photos are staggering. It looks like The Pumphouse Shuffle.
“I think the thing that hits me the most is seeing the people in the photos. Pictures of people that have been around since The Pumphouse started and that I’ve worked with on shows here in town, like Sandy Cunningham, Lynn Fowler and Brian McLeod, and pictures of people that I didn’t get a chance to work with but that I desperately wish I had, people who I know are revered in the arts community here in Bartow, like Don Kordecki and my father-in-law, Dale McCrary. Many of the faces and the fashion and the hairstyles have changed ... over the years, but the one thing that’s constant in all of it is the love for theater and the joy it is obviously bringing to all of these people that are participating. It’s really nice to know that we are keeping that joy going and that in some small way, we are sharing that joy with the many talented people that have come in and out of the doors of The Legion over the last 40 years.”
To meet the need for an organized theater group, The Pumphouse Players was formed in 1975 by a small group of people, led by Kordecki. The troupe’s first production, “Mary, Mary” was presented in the offices of the abandoned First National Bank Loan Office on Main Street. Still going strong with currently more than 100 members, The Pumphouse Players performed at several venues — Episcopal Church of the Ascension, American Legion Hall, Bartow Carver Camp Recreation Hall and The Grand Theatre — before finding a permanent home at The Legion Theatre, 114 W. Main St. in Cartersville, in 1993. Originally operating as a movie house, The Legion was built in 1940 and now accommodates up to 76 people.
“There is great significance to any community theater being able to celebrate being around for this long,” Brooks said. “It is getting harder and harder for nonprofit, community theaters to remain operational. I’ve had several friends who live in the metro area in the last few years that have had to find new places to perform because their local theater has folded.
“The competition for entertainment out there is fierce, with big budget movies, Netflix and the like competing for the eyes and wallets of the public, and for The Pumphouse to be able to keep on turning on the lights and putting on shows, year after year, is something that I am very proud to be a part of. It’s also very gratifying to us that we get so much loyal support from the greater Bartow community. They’ve been coming out for 40 years and we hope to keep them entertained for at least 40 more.”
The Pumphouse Players will open the 40th season with the return of playwright Mary Chase’s “Harvey” Aug. 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22 and 23. The comedy’s cast will include Teresa Harris as Veta Louise Simmons, Amanda Monson as Myrtle Mae Simmons, Daniel Rich as Elwood P. Dowd, Chris Gentry as Dr. Lyman Sanderson, Ashley Boccuti as Nurse Ruth Kelly, Tony Binaco as Dr. William Chumley, Mike Davis as Duane Wilson, Ron Connell as Judge Omar Gaffney, Karen Stinard as Mrs. Betty Chumley, Sandy Cunningham as Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet, Sierra Kirkpatrick as Miss Johnson and Matt Thompson as Mr. Lofgren.
“‘Harvey’ was first produced on Broadway 70 years ago this November,” “Harvey” Director Meghann Humphreys said. “Yet, despite its age, it is still very funny and relatable. Who doesn’t have an embarrassing relative that they would like to stick in an institution? I would love to meet a family completely devoid of one of those types of people in their tree. Of course, they might not be very interesting to know because the one thing you can guarantee when you have at least one interesting relative is that day-to-day life will also be quite interesting. That’s the situation Veta Louise Simmons finds herself in when she’s trying to live a normal social life while trying to hide the fact that her 47-year-old brother has an invisible friend named Harvey, who also happens to be a pooka over 6 feet tall. Cartersville-Bartow County residents will have a wonderful time witnessing the hilarious antics that ensue.
“This [production] is a great way to kick off The Pumphouse Players’ 40th season. The Pumphouse Players have produced this play around four times over the last 40 seasons. ‘Harvey’ is a fun play that appeals to a wide demographic — you can definitely bring your whole family to see this show. Opening with a comedy is also a great way to get the season started in a positive direction. Everyone loves to laugh and be entertained, which are two things this play will give audiences the opportunity to do. We wanted to include a few plays this season that have been produced previously as an homage to our theater group’s history. This season will have a few shows that are classic, audience favorites as well as a couple shows that will be new to the community. But, whatever the show, audiences will be sure to have an enjoyable time seeing a Pumphouse Players production.”
Following “Harvey,” The Pumphouse Players’ production schedule will include “Rebel Yells,” Sept. 12, 13, 14, 19 and 20; “Night of the Living Dead,” Oct. 24, 25, 26 and 31 and Nov. 1; “You Can’t Take It With You,” Jan. 16, 17, 18, 23 and 24; “Almost, Maine,” Feb. 13, 14, 15, 20 and 21; “Exit the Body,” April 24, 25 and 26 and May 1 and 2; and “Wild Dust,” June 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26 and 27.
“There are several goals when The Pumphouse comes up with a new season,” Brooks said. “Obviously, your biggest goal is to produce shows that the public will support, because without an audience, there is no show. So you want to have some popular, old school shows that people are familiar with. But at the same time, you have to offer shows that your talent pool wants to commit their time and energy to. The people who perform at The Pumphouse are 100 percent volunteer based. Nobody is paid here. We do this because we love it, so we have to make sure there is a good mix of the old community theater stand-by shows and some newer, edgier fare.
“Generally, we are able to do that. The majority of the shows that we do are comedies, because that’s what sells the most tickets, but we are always sure to mix a few dramas and thrillers in as well, because our actors are always clamoring for those meaty roles that they wouldn’t get to do otherwise. For example, we put up a really heavy drama, ‘Agnes of God,’ last season and it was a resounding success, with the show recently receiving seven Metropolitan Atlanta Theatre Award nominations, including Best Director, Actress and Overall Performance.”
Brooks continued, “The lineup this year is similar to last year and similar to what we try to do every year. We have a mix of older shows, like ‘Harvey’ and ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ along with some newer fare, like our upcoming show, ‘Rebel Yells’ and ‘Almost, Maine’ in February and a thriller for Halloween, ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ live on stage. Who doesn’t love zombies? I’m also excited for our first and last shows of the season. ‘Harvey’ starts our 40th season and ‘Wild Dust’ will bring it to a close in June. The Pumphouse has performed both before, so it’s a nice, nostalgic way to open and close our ruby anniversary season.”
For more information about The Pumphouse Players’ offerings, call 770-387-2610 or visit www.pumphouseplayers.com.