Keeping community theater alive during the pandemic

Footlite Musicals: A labor of love
Posted at 1:52 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 15:18:24-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Cats. Phantom of the Opera. Avenue Q. Legally Blonde. You do not have to go to Broadway or even the Old National Centre to see those classic and contemporary productions. And thanks to organizations like Footlite Musicals — your friends, neighbors and even you could take the stage.

Footlite formed in the 1950s, performing a few shows a year in high school auditoriums and anywhere else possible. A couple of decades later, the community theater found a permanent home at the corner of 19th Street and Alabama Street on Indianapolis's near north side. It has been a staple of the neighborhood ever since.

That is an amazing feat, considering the organization relies solely on volunteers. From set designers to performers, to board members — no one gets paid. Stage manager Theo Vanore calls working on a production a big-time commitment.

“There are a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” said Vanore. “But the fact that we're doing this genuinely because we love it, tells you a lot about the dedication.”

PHOTOS | Footlite Musicals: A labor of love |

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Footlite President Leslie S. Lee III says cast and crew members often have some professional training but have chosen other career paths.

“Many have realized or didn't want to go the professional route and move to New York or L.A. and fight with a million other people," Lee said. "So, they work at say, Eli Lilly, IUPUI, mom and pop grocery stores, whatever during the day, and then this is their creative outlet.”

That means after your child’s teacher finishes grading tests, they may take the stage and belt out the iconic song “And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going” as Effie White in Dreamgirls. Rayanna Bibbs has done that and more. A teacher at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated Schools, Bibbs has also performed in Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors, and several other shows. Why does she make the time? “I love it, and it's fun. And it's what I'm passionate about,” Bibbs said. “It brings me joy; it makes me happy.”

PHOTOS | Footlite Musicals: A labor of love |

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Becca De Tar, a pharmacy technician, also turns to Footlite to unleash her creative and artistic talents. She is the writer and director of an original cabaret called Women of Broadway. It is the theater’s first production since shutting down in March due to the pandemic. The show features numbers from a variety of musicals that showcase women in strong and independent roles. The small cast rehearses with masks and socially distances. Footlite hopes to stream the performance for virtual audiences sometime in late January or early February.

While no one lost a paycheck due to Footlite pressing pause on productions, the organization does need financial help. When asking for donations, Lee also makes a plea for other community theaters.

"When I ask for money, we would love it, but I would also love the small theater in Hendricks County to receive help or Howard County, some place where they really have small budgets for their shows."

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PHOTOS | Footlite Musicals: A labor of love |

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