Heather Stanley: City of Americus update — The Rylander Theatre

Published 1:30 pm Monday, July 10, 2017

The Rylander Theatre ushers thousands of patrons through the doors each year. Over 6,000 people attended an event or toured the theater in 2016. Whether they were attending a Friends of the Rylander Presenter Series show, a community theatre performance from the Sumter Players, or a dance recital, political assembly, or holiday event, there is much to take in and enjoy.
In the summer, I can be found giving guided tours of the historic theater to out of town travelers and locals alike. One of my favorites is the Orientation Tour for all new employees at the City of Americus. Having the opportunity to explain how we fit into the big picture of the City is very important; a lot of people don’t realize we’re an entity of the City. Frequently the employees bring their families and out of town guests back to the theater to show it off and give their own tour.
We talk a lot about the importance of “place” and being a memory maker for people in Americus, Sumter County, and surrounding counties. We love hearing stories about first dates at the theater, and we’ve had proposals and weddings on the stage; this place is so much more than a box office and ticket sales.
Many of those memories begin with a child’s first time stepping onto the stage. Since the beginning of June, local day-camps have made tours of the Rylander part of their weekly activities. Giving kids the chance to walk on the stage and look out over the audience, to talk about how important the theater is to the community, and giving them the opportunity to take pride and ownership of our theater is incredibly important in creating lifelong learners and supporters of the arts.
The annual Missoula Children’s Theatre residency took place in late June, allowing students in K-12th grades the opportunity take the stage for a week and give a full performance to family and friends on the final day. Based in Missoula, Montana, their production of “Jack and the Beanstalk” started with auditions on a Monday followed by daily rehearsals and two final performances with 60 area students participating this year.
The Sumter Players annually produce Kids Week and Teen Week. This year the camp will follow the same model as Missoula Children’s Theatre; students audition, rehearse during the week, while also being treated to various workshops and theater games, and perform in staged productions on the final day. The theater staff look forward to the summer camps and for the opportunity to tackle some building repair and maintenance projects before launching a very busy season of performances from September to May.
Last fall, the Rylander utilized previously approved SPLOST funding to install a much needed lightning protection system onto the building. The theater has been hit twice by lightning in the last seven years and the damages to the building and equipment were substantial both times. With the new system in place, the theater is better situated to withstand the lightning that comes with inclement weather, the equipment is further protected, and the staff can rest a little easier when the thunder rolls into town.
One of the main goals of the Rylander staff is to be the best possible stewards of the treasured and historic theater. There are more building projects lined up that will ensure the Rylander functions at its best for years to come. I always like to encourage people to “be a tourist in your own hometown.” Walk up tours are available from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and group tours are by appointment.

Heather Stanley is Managing Director of the Rylander Theatre, Americus.