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Anderson Independent-Mail from Anderson, South Carolina • 36

Anderson, South Carolina
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4 I Thursday September 2014 voumotowiifun New theater group in Pelzer puts old auditorium to use MIHM UMWOUt HUMt IUM UN By Sarah Frelshtat uvrfifrtiViUl gindfpwidtntiiaiUcrn 8647601274 Woodmont High School had a reputation as a rural country school when Will Ragland arrived to begin a theater program The school across the Greenville county line from Pelzer was small and hardly known for theater Seven years later the high theater program has grown to include two full-time instructors and has won several competitions Ragland now wants to build a similar theater program for the town of Pelzer He has helped form the Mill Town Players a community theater group that will perform at the old Pelzer Auditorium Its first show will open this month Ragland plans to make the shows affordable and' accessible tickets for all shows will be S10 with discounts for seniors and students and to use as much local talent and resources as possible Eventually he hopes the theater will help revive a corner of Anderson County that is often overlooked see the value of what live theater can do to not only individuals but also the whole he said Ragland will direct six shows this season including "A Christmas "Alice in Wonderland" and The season will open Sept 19 with Patsy The first shows are already cast he said but there will be open auditions for the remaining shows Ragland said he wants the theater fo focus on the local community which is why he selected Mill Town Players as the name It is a tribute to the heritage of the entire Upstate Though Ragland lives works and acts in Greenville he grew up in Anderson County He IF YOU GO What A performance of "Always Patsy Cline" Where: Pelzer Auditorium 214 Lebby St Pelzer When: Sept 19-28 For tickets or Information: Visit wwwmilltownplayers com or call 8649478000 attended school in Anderson School District 1 which serves Williamston Pelzer and Pow-dcrsville He recently bought a house in Pelzer and plans to leave his home in downtown Greenville to put down roots near the theater Ragland chose the Pelzer Auditorium to house the program at the request of a former teacher of his who used to lead a theater group at the auditorium So Ragland leased the old auditorium which had been largely unused for the past decade Like most of the town it was built by the nearby mill when business was thriving It was completed in the 1920s to accompany the now-closed Pelzer schools said Elaine Hunt historian for the Pelzer Heritage Commission It held a variety of traveling minstrel shows movies and student recitals But by the 1970s it was no longer regularly used and fell into disrepair always been a cornerstone of the Hunt said Anderson School District 1 repaired the building several decades later One theater group used it in the late 1990s or early 2000s Hunt said but it was mostly used only sporadically by individual performers Dianne Lollis the president and a board member of the Mill Town Players remembers attending events in the auditorium when she was a student She said the new theater group will help the Members of the Mill Town Players rehearse for their upcoming production of "AlwaysPatsy at the Pelzer Auditorium town which has been in decline since the mills closed "This is going to be a big thing to bring people back to the town of Lollis said Ragland hopes bringing art to the community will bring visitors to Pelzer They will likely purchase gas for their cars and want to eat dinner before a show he said In the long-run he sees the theater encouraging investment in the community Ragland plans to focus in future years on building relationships with area youth Many of the plays he has chosen for the first season are classic works with educational value He also hopes to offer theater workshops for both students and adults in future years as well as after-school programs and summer camps ne said Raglnd plans to stick around Pelzer for a while to accomplish all thlS jcji Au uuc wut uc KTHi rvuimaaii "We are here as part of this performances Katie Rockwell and other members of the Mill Town Players rehearse their upcoming production of community he said are For tickets visit biggest milltownplayersorg or "Always Patsy 8649478000 for www call.

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