COAL CITY – They say tragedies come in threes. For the cast and staff at Small Town Theatrics in Coal City, the story is no different.
Ann Gill, board member of the nonprofit theater, said as the company prepared for its annual production, losses seemed to plague them.
“Our first loss was John Browning, the husband of Sherfy Browning and co-producer in several Coal City shows,” Gill said. “At that time, the cost wasn’t something we thought we could pull off for this show and Jack Micetich [founder of Small Town Theatrics] called and said ‘Life is too short.’ ”
As the organization proceeded toward the production of “Mary Poppins,” this year’s show, members received word that Darcy Chobar, an actor who had appeared in previous shows, had died in a car accident.
Gill said she fondly remembers Chobar’s role in “Legally Blonde,” where she rocked it in Nike stiletto tennis shoes.
Like any traditional theater, group members carried on; after all, as Gill noted, the show must go on.
Then an EF3 tornado hit Coal City on June 22, damaging the high school where the company performs its shows and decimating the home Gill lived in, along with causing damage to 10 homes lived in by either cast or supporting personnel, such as costume designers.
“At that point we asked, what do we do?” Gill said.
After talking, Micetich said company members knew they had to keep going. They had to give the community an event to go to after the tornado.
“I hope people come out to the show and put the tornado behind them for a couple of hours,” Micetich said.
Taking off the mask of tragedy, the cast and crew put on the smiling mask of comedy and moved forward with a show based on the love of family.
Micetich said there is one scene in the musical that says it all: When it was read as they were staging the scene after the tornado, they knew they were doing the right thing.
“George says ‘Winifred ... if I am to be dismissed by the bank, we’ll be destitute. The servants will leave, the house will be repossessed, and we’ll be outside with the children sitting on the frosty curbside.’” Micetich said. “Winifred responds, ‘We’ll still have what really matters. The children. And each other.’ When that was read we just looked at one another.”
Emma Washburn, a Coal City graduate affected by the tornado, is grateful the theater company chose to go on.
“I had three houses affected; my new one, my old one and my dad’s house,” she said. “This is my outlet to get away from that stuff. This has become like home.”
She said the community has come together in tremendous ways and she hopes the musical will remind them everything eventually will go back to normal.
Josh Lacy, another Coal City graduate, said having rehearsal gives him somewhere to go, even if he can’t go to his home.
“In one way or another everyone has been affected,” he said.
The play will open July 24 and a matinee has been added for the next day to meet the demands for tickets.
IF YOU GO
What: Coal City play
• VIP night – 7 p.m. July 23
• 7 p.m. July 24
• 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. July 25
• 2 p.m. July 26
Where: Coal City High School Auditorium, 655 W. Division St, Coal City
Cost: VIP tickets for Friday night are $25. Reserved tickets for all other shows are $10. Tickets may be purchased through the Small Town Theatrics at www.smalltowntheatrics.org.