The history of Hart County Community Theatre
written in 1987
When the Junior Service League conceived the idea of staging a play in Hartwell they didn’t realize how fertile the soil into which they sowed their seed. The play, “Come Blow Your Horn” by Neil Simon, received county-wide applause and generated the interest in many people to form a community theatre. A public meeting was held in the Georgia Power building and a board of directors was selected. Those serving on the charter board were Mike Hurley, President; Dottie Holding, Vice President; Patty Duke, Secretary; George Rooks, Treasurer; June Flowers, Walter Gordon, Ken Hoorn, Joan Saliba, and Ann Urban. This newly elected board applied for and received a charter from the Secretary of State in 1979. The Hart County Community Theatre was born!
From 1979 until the middle of October 1985 our plays and variety shows were produced on the stage of the Hartwell Elementary School on College Avenue. Although we were grateful for the use of this facility, the school stage was only slightly better than nothing at all, so limited were its capabilities. In order to have lighting, we bought nine instruments and rigged an electronic on/off system that made us look pretty official but we still had limited flexibility. Even more, handicapping was the stage rehearsal schedule. Due to a $25 fee per evening use, the theatre group could only afford to have 3 rehearsals on stage before opening a play. Thus it was necessary to beg vacant buildings from friendly merchants in order to have a place to rehearse and build sets. Some rehearsal locations were: the EMC building on Elberton Road, the Pizza Express on Depot Street, a former variety store in a shopping center on Elberton Road, the County Courthouse, the building located beside the Theatre’s present location, the Library, and the JayCee building on Fairview Avenue. Several dinner theatres were staged at the Yacht Club at which we were allowed to rehearse.
In time we developed a problem of set storage and once again we implored kind merchants to grant us the use of their vacant buildings.
Being gypsies was our most difficult role. In 1982 we began to think seriously about purchasing a building. It was a dream but a necessary ingredient to thrust us into action when the Weatherly Furniture Company building became available in 1983. The building had been built as a grain warehouse. It had huge timber supports in the basement which came up to the first floor and ran up to the balcony where the beams served as roof supports. The decision was made to purchase the building and a fund drive was launched to raise the purchase price of $30,000.
Having succeeded in this direction a group of volunteers began removing more than one half of the balcony and constructing a stage, restrooms, a lighting booth, storage room, and refreshment booth. The upper wood beams were replaced by steel I beams running from wall to wall. A new electrical system was installed, staircases were reversed and new ones were installed. In the basement, two dressing rooms, a make-up area, a wardrobe area, set storage and a restroom were built.
In October of 1985, two years and thousands of hours of labor later, the Hart County Community Theatre opened to a full house. The walls were unpainted, the stage was curtainless and the building was melting hot. But it was OUR building! A ceremony was held prior to the beginning of the play and the building and its purpose were blessed. A videotape of this ceremony was placed in the library. The facility was later painted Victorian rose and wine, heat, and air were installed and a curtain was hung. By 1987 our $30,000 theatre project had cost in excess of $70,000 and most of the labor was volunteered!
Artistically, in its 8th year of existence, the Hart County Community Theatre has produced 21 plays (including 3 musicals), 4 variety shows, and 2 Christmas shows. We are striving toward developing a Children’s Theatre and have had 2 productions of this nature. In addition, HCCT has made the stage available for dance and literary exhibitions. All proceeds are used for production costs and for building renovation/maintenance. All work is done on a volunteer basis. Included in this history are programs from almost all our plays. Reading through these will reveal the number of people in Hartwell who participated in theatre.
Those individuals who have worked closely with the Community Theatre–whether it is in Hartwell or another town–have become aware of how theatre cuts across social, socio-economic, and religious barriers. Being a part of a group composed of people from all walks of life who are working together to achieve a successful end is an education in itself.
Nov. 11, 1993 — Hart County Community Theatre had the opening night for the show “Harvey” on Nov. 11 at 8 p.m.
The show, which is about a man who is having visions of a giant rabbit, is memorialized at the theatre with a large painting in the front lobby. The painting depicts the lead man, Elwood P. Dodd, who was played by Harry Hannah, with the rabbit. Harry Hannah was in a car accident the week before where his car was crushed by a truck, but he walked away unscathed. This incident led people to believe that Harvey is a protective spirit who still lives at the theatre to this day.