Below are some wonderful stories of how the Baytown Little Theater has touched lives in the community. Leave a comment here with your story … how has the BLT touched your life?
I came to the BLT as an awkward seven year-old with a closeted flair for the dramat- ic and a sudden desire to become a famous actress. However, when I look back on the things I was facing in my life at the time, I think that in all honesty, I just wanted to be recognized, admired, and laughed at when I wanted to be laughed at. These were rights I rarely got as a remarkably short, tomboyish geek, complete with spelling bee trophy, unflattering haircut, and general lack of social skills.
When I joined the chorus of “Annie Get Your Gun”at age nine, I instantly belonged. There was no awkwardness, no judgment; I was accepted for the odd little kid I was- even encouraged to be that kid.
All that summer, I lived for the show. From the first rehearsal till closing night, I was filled with joy and adrenaline as I experienced the extraordinary feeling of being connected to something bigger than myself. After “Annie Get Your Gun” ended, I instantly set out to chase down that feeling again.
When my family unexpectedly moved to West Virginia following a family tragedy, my sister and I took paying summer acting jobs at Theater West Virginia. During my two years there, I was con- stantly surrounded by professional actors from every part of the country. However, I can honestly say that although the talent at TWV was immense, the people of BLT consistently surpass them in talent, professionalism, and most definitely in spirit. Nothing brought me more joy than returning to the BLT in the summer of 2006.
When I graduated from HSPVA this past spring, I felt inclined to thank not only my family, but also the BLT for their support. I cannot count the times that I studied a textbook on the backstage couch, wrote an essay at the box office desk, or asked a fellow cast member for help with math homework. They watched me grow as if I were their own child. Somewhere along the way, with their help, I ceased to be “that odd little kid” and became a person that I love to be.
As I write this from the library of Southwestern University, where I am now majoring in Theatre, I cannot help but long for home. I miss Baytown terribly – Baytown Little Theater, especially. I consider it not only one of Baytown’s greatest treasures, but one of mine as well.
I began acting professionally when I was 9 years old. In the undisclosed number of years since that time, I have worked in many theaters across the country. Ten years ago, when I left my career to become a Mommy, I assumed I had also left behind my ability to do theater realistically. I’ve done theater most of my life. I know what it takes to do a show. This is NOT something a single Mom-of-three can do.
Then I discovered the Baytown Little Theater. What a treasure! Here was my opportunity to do theater again… GOOD theater… and with my children in tow. The culture of the BLT is one of family. My children are welcome at rehearsal.
As my children have grown older, THEY now want to participate in shows at the BLT. I cannot tell you the magic that occurs as I watch my child take a bow at curtain call… right beside me. Most actors my age, and in my life situation, don’t have this rare joy. The BLT has provided me with the chance not only to continue with my art, but to share that art with my children.
The BLT is my extended family. These are the people that I call when I need help. They are my community. There is something special about this theater and I understand what a precious gift it has been in my life. Thank you, BLT, for all you have meant to me. Here’s to the next 50 years! May the Baytown Little Theater continue to make magic… both on stage and off.
I was a miserable child. At ten years old, I was sulky, shy, bad tempered and generally unpleasant. This, of course, was because our family had just moved to Baytown and I had absolutely no interest in being there. I remember being furious at my parents for taking me away from my friends and family in Michigan and bringing me to a place where every soft drink was “coke” and a cool day in the summer was 97 degrees. Needless to say, I was not adjust- ing well. Friends were few and far between and even at that early age I was falling into a pattern of depression that was threatening to follow me into my adult life. In an effort to cheer me up, my parents took me to see BLT’s pro- duction of “Cinderella”. I enjoyed the show, of course, but what really made
the difference to me was the news that there would soon be a production of “The Secret Garden”. This was wonderful news. It was one of my favorite stories and I had read the book many times over. Looking back now, I can see why I would relate to the story of an angry young girl taken away from her family and the home she’s known, but at the time I just knew that I loved the story, the adventure, and the happy ending.
Too shy to audition, I attended as “moral support” for my father who was much braver than I. Were it not for the director asking me to come sing, I’m sure I would have left that day and never come back. I was cast as an understudy for the lead. To someone watching from the outside, the changes in me from the start of that show to the end might not have been very noticeable. But something very important did happen–I came back to the theater. Year after year, show after show, I kept returning to that place and those people. I remember the transition from being “the Bailey’s daughter” to a theater person in my own right. I was onstage, offstage, or in the audi- ence for every show. I grew up in the theater. From a little girl twirling in circles in the lobby to being a teenager having my first kiss outside the green room door, the theater has seen the best and the worst of me and has shaped me to become the woman I am today.
In the spring of 1976, my father’s employer transferred our family to Baytown from upstate New York. Our family arrived in the middle of March. I was 16 years old, which as anyone knows is a terrible time for a teenager to move!
When I arrived here, I thought my Dad had dropped us on another planet! It was flat, it was hot and it was only March! The people talked strangely and it was hard to understand them. The Jr/Sr High School that I had been attending in New York was about 1200 students. Now I was expected to go to a high school double that size! The kids at school looked at me as an alien. I just didn’t fit in. Moving from a very small farming community did nothing to prepare me for the Texas south. I felt LOST and very lonely.
Then the realtor that sold us our house introduced our family to the Baytown Little Theater. Back in New York, our family had been involved with the Lake Valley Players, a small community theater. We had spent many hours there as a family and it was something we enjoyed.The people at the Baytown Little Theater welcomed us with open arms, funny accents and all. We had found a home!
Throughout the last 34 years, the BLT has been an integral part of our lives, both with my imme- diate family and later extended to my husband and my children. The theater has both celebrated with us and cried with us throughout life’s journey. It has provided a place for my entire family to work together on a common goal, given us a place to expand our creative talents, and develop confidence in ourselves and our abilities.
There are not many places that a teenager would want to spend time with their parents and yet at the theater, that ispart of the norm. Our family worked and played together making memories as well as providing entertainment and enjoyment for others. With no family in the area, the mem- bers of the BLT have become our extended family. Whether related to a show or not, they can always be relied on to lend a helping hand. Through hurricanes, floods, illnesses, weddings, and babies, they are there on the front lines pitching in where needed!
Elizabeth Adler Darby
Baytown Little Theater played a major role in my life. It wasn’t just a location where I could participate in extracurricular activities; it molded me into the person I have now become. As a child I was drawn to music and acting – participating in ballet, tap, private music lessons including voice and various instruments.
Baytown Little Theater gave me an avenue to pull all of these activities together and participate with other individuals who shared a similar passion. But even more than that, the people involved in Baytown Little Theater took a special interest in me. Jim Wadzinski is one of those people. Jim either directed or acted in every production I was involved in. He not only helped develop my technical skills, but his encouragement and support helped me to develop the confidence and boldness that I now find to be critical in my career.
He encouraged me to attend the High School for the Performing Arts, and later helped me make the decision to attend Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in voice. In fact, the Baytown Little Theater community saw and nurtured a potential in me that I did not even know existed. As a young adult, I have found that the experiences and opportunities Baytown Little Theater provided for me still impact my everyday life. I learned perseverance, self – discipline, and especially team- work. All of those skills not only affected my artistic interests, but also played a large role in many of the non-artistic parts of my life. I believe that BLT gave me the confidence I have today to achieve my dreams.
I can categorize my top five steps in life. They are in no specific order: 5. My first step as a baby. 4. My first step down the aisle to marry my husband. 3. My first step without a cane. 2. My first step out of my wheelchair (the hardest step). 1. My first step into Baytown Little Theater; a step that taught me about life; taught me about performing and creating on stage and introduced me to some of the best people I have ever known.
I first auditioned and then later performed at the Baytown Little Theater (BLT) when I was fourteen. Like many teenagers, I did not have strong self-confidence. I also did not have any acting knowledge, other than one show I had performed in
Galveston. In junior high, I had been involved with the orchestra and didn’t know the difference between upstage and downstage.
Although I am now a drama teacher in the Fort Worth area, I did’t take an acting class until I went to college at Texas Tech University. I didn’t even graduate with a degree in Theatre Arts. My preparation for the Theatre Arts Certification test came from what I learned at BLT. The directors and actors teach as they perform their stage duties; sharing their craft with the young, producing not only good thespians but educated ones as well.
Several years ago, I was in a car accident that almost killed me; my friends from BLT were regular visitors to the hospital, bringing as much light as they could in such a drab place. They encouraged me to I walk again; to be the actor that I was before my accident. They helped keep me alive during that time. Facing the possibility never walking again, not singing again, and not having my memory, I felt as close to death as I could imagine. But the BLT crew visited me often, put a smile on my face, and found a way to get me back into the theatre which helped keep my spirits up and kept me alive.
Baytown Little Theatre has been a major factor in my life. It has taught me to entertain; it prepared me for my career, and put people in my life who changed it for the better. I am a better person because of BLT. I am an actress and an educator of youth. Seneca stated, “Life’s like a play; it’s not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters.” I feel my life has been pretty excellent and I owe so much of that to what I learned and who I have met at Baytown Little Theatre.
Let’s travel back some 20 years. The Show was “Annie”, and it was the first show my husband and I ever worked on…we were hooked! We had found a home and a family.
Several years and many shows later, I lost my husband in a fatal accident. After losing my best friend, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to the theater without him. I disappeared for quite some time. During that time, I chose a new spouse that I unwittingly thought would be a good mate. My children and I suffered
many forms of abuse over the next several years due to my poor judgment. Over that time, I developed anxiety attacks and social anxiety disorder. I became very paranoid and had a lot of trouble trusting people. I was a frightened mess.
God then blessed me with a wonderful new husband. He helped me work through many of my problems, but I wasn’t quite myself yet. Then, one day I ran into Jim Wadzinski at the mall. When I told him I was moving back to Baytown, he grinned at me and said “Let me know when you get moved. I have something for you to do.” I ran home, got online and saw that Jim was directing “My Fair Lady” the next summer, a show Jeff and I had done twenty years ago. I had to go.
During auditions, I sat in the back of the theater, as far away from everybody as I could get, still pretty much a frightened mess. But I was cast, and we now approach the end of the show. For the most part, I no longer hide in the back of the theater to avoid being near people. I find myself smiling and having fun onstage, something I thought would never happen again. I have found a new confidence in myself, or should I say an old confidence, that I have not had in years. Finally, I have reached some closure at the loss of my first husband by returning home to friends and family.
I’m still working on the trust thing, but in short, I’m finding the me I used to be. I’m not completely there yet, but with the grace of God and a few more shows, I’ll be myself in no time.
Thank you BLT!
Baytown Little Theater has meant a lot to me in the past few months. I just got involved with the Theater this past summer and had a blast and would not change what I did for anything. I never thought that I would meet so many people that were willing to take the time to teach others how to get involved. I have also been the type of person who couldn’t make friends and I have made tons of them with the theater. The theater is a place that you can go when you have nowhere else to turn and get away from the stresses of everyday life. There is not one person there that is going to judge you and they accept you for who you are no matter what. Every single person there will do their best to help you out when you need it. I couldn’t change anything about what I have done this summer and couldn’t have picked a better place to express myself and who I actually am.
What is the BLT?
A life raft.
I moved to Baytown at the urging of my first wife and her family. I had met her in Wisconsin, but being from here, she always wanted to move back, which we did in 1983. This move represented a huge risk for me – I was leaving behind everything and everyone. My dad even saw fit to have a long walk with me about it, which was something he would never do under normal circumstances.
To make a long story short, Dad was right – within two years our marriage had dissolved and I had no job, no family (at least anywhere near enough to help), no house, no prospects, and two children under the age of five to support. I was literally sleeping in the back seat of my car with two suitcases.
I had watched the BLT from afar since arriving in Baytown, but, having come from the world of professional theater, I had turned up my nose at the idea of “community” theater. However, at this point, I was desperate for something familiar, something I was good at, since I had apparently failed at everything else in my life. So, I decided that maybe I should swallow my pride and go do a show. I watched until I saw an audition call for Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and I walked in the door in early February of 1986. That was, without a doubt the single best decision I have ever made in my life.
Within two weeks, I had a place to live and a job, courtesy of people I met at the theater. Within three years I was happily re-married (yes, I met Sylvia at the theater). As I look back at the last 25 years and over 70 shows that I have been involved in, I can honestly say that I have no earthly idea how my life would have turned out without the BLT. I have been blessed with lifelong fiends, a mechanism for community support and service, a wonderful wife and family, and many opportunities … all courtesy of the BLT.
Having said all that, I truly believe that God pus us where we’re most needed and that it’s up to us to utilize the opportunity He puts before us. I believe that God gave me the talents that I have and through a unique set of circumstances put me here so that, through the BLT, I could use those talents to not only make the theater better, but to also make our community better and to enrich and influence the lives of the people that surround me at the theater, both casts and audiences.
More importantly, I believe that my most important function is to make sure that the life raft keep sailing and is there for others like myself when they so desperately need it. At this point, we need a bigger boat … and I will certainly do my part to help raise the sail.
When I first moved to Baytown, I immediately knew I had to get back into theatre. I had been performing with a children’s company in Beaumont, and it did not take me very long to miss performing. I jumped straight into Baytown Little Theatre’s world, auditioning for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and it was through that show that I became immediately hooked. I started participating in many of the acting workshops as well as shows. Unfortunately, there came a time when I decided to concentrate more on school and competitive dance and the like – which left little time for my participation in BLT productions. As soon as I graduated from high school, however, I knew I had to get back into performing. I just missed it way too much. Of course, the BLT was there for me to hop back onto the acting wagon.
The BLT had always been there for me to get my creative fix, as it has been for the rest of the community that participates. And as time has gone on, we’ve become a theatre family of sorts. There to support each other in every way possible, and to help out in any way we can. I have formed many dear relationships with people that I would have otherwise never met.
I have also found myself as an actress through the Baytown Little Theatre. Without the BLT, I would not have grown into the confident person – and performer – that I feel I am today.
Thank you, BLT. For everything.
Why do I love Baytown Little Theater? Let me count the ways …
Retirement can leave an empty hole in your life. Gone are the guaranteed social interactions. Gone are the daily problems to solve. Gone is the rhythm of your former working existence. Although I had dabbled in theater and music in my younger life, I had not had the time or opportunity (or talent?) for such things while traveling and working. I had many occasions to “act” as an attorney, but I thought I had no use for that “skill” in retirement. Then I began to participate in shows at the Baytown Little Theater.
I learned that the BLT isn’t just for the young or the really theatrically gifted, although they are often the stars of the BLT. It’s a great venue for us mature – average – talent folks too. BLT offered me the opportunity to “stretch” my mind (I wondered if I could memorize 400 lines. I can.). It is exhilarating at my age!
The real surprise for me at the Baytown Little Theater is the friendships I have formed. I had neighborhood friends, church friends, work friends, and now I have wonderful theater friends. My community of friendships has really expanded!
Thanks in part to the BLT, life after retirement is very good. We are indeed fortunate to have such an asset in our community.