Lights, Camera, Action! Mainstage Classic Theatre’s Marty Fredrick is Ready for Her Close-up
May 18, 2015 03:34PM
● By Kevin
Marty Fredrick loves the theater. The former drama teacher and longtime theatre producer and director is the president and artistic director of Mainstage Classic Theatre (MCT) in Mansfield. She was part of a small group of people that founded the group – originally called Mansfield Community Theatre – and she has remained involved ever since. The group provides acting opportunities and training in all areas of production.
She’s been married to Virgle for 38 years and together they have two grown children and two grandchildren. We asked her to tell us a little more about what she does at MCT and just how the theatre operates.
Tell us about your job and what you do? I am the president and artistic director of Mainstage Classic Theatre, which is an all-volunteer operation. I oversee all productions and work with the new managing director, Doug Parker, to coordinate everything. This includes fundraising, upkeep of facility, all board responsibilities and general business functions.
Tell us about your background and other experience you’ve had in theatre? I was producer and director of major works at the Orpheum Theatre for 8 years. It’s a beautiful restored theatre on the old Chicago vaudeville circuit. I was also producer and director of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” and a Christmas show starring Rudy Gatlin in Branson for a season. The next season my husband and I put two professional shows on tour with Rudy playing well-known venues throughout the Midwest. It was a great but expensive experience and was lots of hard work.
How did you get involved with the theatre locally? Basically, when we first came to Mansfield 20 years ago, I had just finished the Branson experience and was asked to lead drama ministry at Walnut Ridge Baptist Church. Several people asked for lessons in drama and at that time there was absolutely no theatre being taught in the area except some at the high school. I incorporated Performing Arts Studio and with the help of a few friends and instructors, operated on South Cooper for three years. We offered classes in piano, voice, guitar and different levels of drama. Annually, we produced shows giving opportunities for performance at great venues including UTA’s Main Stage, Will Rogers, Ed Landruth at TCU, Scott Theatre in Fort Worth and others. Dr. Scott Ferrell at First United Methodist Church was forming the Arts Institute of Mansfield at First United Methodist Church and asked me to join him, taking drama classes there and working together on productions. I also worked with him at the church to produce several Broadway productions as well as Christian productions, including directing a couple at Bass Hall and now the MISD Center for the Performing Arts.
So how did Mainstage Classic Theatre get its start? Several people encouraged me to help form a community theatre for the area, and together with a wonderful group of people, Mansfield Community Theatre was founded. The name was changed after the fourth year to Mainstage Classic Theatre, reflecting our growing involvement with other areas - South Arlington, Grand Prairie and Kennedale, mostly. Most of the founding board members have continued to serve.
What are the goals and objectives for the Mainstage Classic Theatre? Our goals are to produce classic theatrical works for the area, providing opportunities for people to use their talents backstage and on stage in a nurturing and positive climate. We also continue to serve the area by offering a variety of classes as well as a two-week intensive study youth camp, which culminates in performances for the community. We are very proud that our instructors are professional teachers as well as experienced in theatre and wonderful with each child, inspiring and encouraging. Heather Rountree is great as the coordinator for our educational program. This leads to the importance of MCT to the area and to the lives it touches in so many ways. I firmly believe that it is not just my vision but the vision of each person associated with directing and running MCT that we actually touch lives in a positive way. Dr. Scott Ferrell, who originally co-chaired MCT as a founding member, serving as vice president and musical director, has such a heart for people and talent for teaching voice. His training and theatrical background is invaluable to MCT. Beth Holland is a founding member and our MCT choreographer. All of our directors have worked professionally, know their craft and care about the individual, striving to encourage and teach. We’re also blessed to have Robin Burgin who has stage-managed every single show, and Mike Shreve, our master carpenter.
Why is Mainstage Classic Theatre important to the community? MCT is important to the area because of the lives it touches and the artistry of theatre that it brings. Much has been printed and said about the level of production we achieve. I believe that is because of this wonderful group of caring and talented individuals that volunteer much of their lives, actually, to this endeavor. All are volunteers. This is not said about any other community theatre that I know of. Usually, there is a paid staff to help in business areas as well as paid directors for productions.
What’s the size and cost of a typical production? Our summer production alone involves 150 to 200 cast and crew members not to mention the audience it serves, giving a real theatrical experience of the highest caliber to all involved. Costs for a large summer production vary from $15,000 to $21,000. What we accomplish in sets, costumes and talent is unbelievable for this amount. Royalties alone for musicals are usually $3,500 to $4,000, depending on venue and seating. Venue rental, sets, costumes, props, publicity, etc., make up the rest of our costs. We count on ticket sales and our sponsors to pay for the shows. However, like all community theatres that offer classes, revenue from those classes helps pay for monthly office and classroom rental and business expenses and are vital to our continuation.
Tell us more about how you fund operations? Because we are all volunteers and do not have funding to pay, we simply do not have anyone soliciting sponsors and donors. We have a wonderful group of supporters that have been loyal and helped yearly but compared to other community theatres, that list is extremely small. We are awarded a monetary sum of $5,000 from the City of Mansfield hotel/motel tax fund and also have applied for a donation from the Women’s Club in Mansfield. Since we have no budget to have someone write grants or solicit, we operate solely off ticket sales and a small group of donors and sponsors. We are so grateful to the sponsors we have: DMG Masonry, Ltd., Dee Davey’s RE/MAX Team, Frost Bank, Mansfield Community Bank, and Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.
What does it take to put together a production? It generally takes 8 to 10 weeks to produce a show. Although rehearsals usually don’t begin until 6 weeks out on a regular basis, planning and organizing actually begins 6 months out. We determine our “season” a year in advance like all community theatres. We are different in that we do not rehearse as often, choosing to accommodate actors who always have other commitments. Rehearsals are usually two times a week except for leads who might rehearse 3 times. We expect all actors to come prepared to rehearsals, knowing their lines for characters portrayed prior to individual rehearsals. Costuming, set building, vocals, choreography and even orchestration is planned months in advance with the different directors. We have been extremely fortunate to rehearse at First United Methodist Church. In return we help them with any drama production they include in services and help with other costume and set needs they might have.
Tell us about your upcoming productions? Currently we produce 4 works a year and are proud of the fact we pull these shows from great American Theatre Classics. Our 2015 season included “You Can’t Take It With You,” produced in February at Mansfield’s St. John Lutheran Church. Other shows this season include “West Side Story,” at the Kennedale Performing Arts Center in July, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” in December, also at St. John Lutheran Church. Our summer musical theatre youth camp will produce “Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jr.” at Kennedale’s Wildcat Auditorium in June.Why do you love it so much? Truly, I have seen families brought together working toward a common goal. Everyone builds lifetime memories and so many grow in confidence and feel appreciated. At my age, I have had students go on to become very successful in theatre. Currently, several are actually doing well in New York and Chicago not to mention close to home. I take seriously my responsibility to each one, and always advise them to not be caught up in the world of theatre if it causes them to ever, ever sacrifice their own values. And, I guess, I have finally come to the conclusion, after 46 years of being in the field, that I enjoy the creative climate and the relationships. Truly we have great and special people at MCT sharing and making memories to last a lifetime.
Written by Kerry Pipes
We featured Mainstage Classic Theatre's Marty Fredrick in our May-June 2015 issue. Here's some more information and bonus photos. Read More »