Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre celebrates 100 years


By Alec Johnson

A Carmel theater will soon be wrapping up its 100th season in style.

Starting this month, the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre will host a series of events to commemorate the actors, actresses, and productions that have kept it going since its beginning in 1915. The theater’s Director of Development Catherine Dixon is excited about being a part of the organization and its efforts.

“I’m super honored to be a part of this organization, and the fact that I’m able to work in the performing arts and serve the community is the most amazing thing to me,” Dixon said.

The first event will be the “100 Years of Civic Theatre Exhibit,” to be held April 16 in the Tarkington Theater lobby. It archives the last 100 years, and is divided into three sections: imagination, education, and participation. Alyssa Boge, a museum studies student at IUPUI, archived and catalogued the exhibit, and James Sholly, who owns Commercial Artisan, designed it. The exhibit will remain in the Tarkington lobby through the fall, and a VIP event will be held for longstanding supporters and participants to open the exhibit’s viewing.

“They will be the first people to see this exhibit, so it’s been an interesting process locating these folks trying to make sure they’re available for this,” Dixon said.

The next event will be “Backstage Exclusive: Spamalot Editon”, also at the Tarkington Theater on April 29 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person. The community will get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Tarkington prior to opening night of “Monty Python’s SPAMALOT.” It’s based off a children’s program called “Backstage Pass.”

The adults can see the entire set, including the sound booth, dressing rooms and prop department. The “Backstage Exclusive” involves a scavenger hunt and beer available throughout the building, sponsored by Monarch Beverages.

Dixon believes that the Tarkington is a community resource, and is excited about sharing the theater.

“This is our way that they get to see the behind the scenes stuff, which being in the industry you tend to take it for granted, because if I need to go to the dressing room, I just go up on stage and go back there; but for a lot of people, this is a very interesting opportunity, and we want to make sure people are able to do that,” Dixon said.

Following the Backstage Exclusive is the Mad Hatter and Twisted Tea Parties on June 13. The Mad Hatter will include two performances of Jr. Civic’s “Alice in Wonderland, Jr.”In between those performances, children will be able to enjoy a meet and greet with show characters, get their faces painted and enjoy refreshments. The event runs from 3 to 4:30 p.m., with tickets costing $10 per child. Following the children’s tea party will be the Twisted Tea Party, which is an adult event. It celebrates and supports Civic’s education and outreach programs with special alumni performances, awards, music, a cash bar, and refreshments. Tickets are $45 per person, and the event runs from 7 to 10 p.m.

The last event will be the Centennial Gala on June 20 at 6 p.m., a black-tie event celebrating the theater’s 100th birthday. Tickets are $250 each. It will take place at the historic home where Booth Tarkington once lived.

Booth Tarkington Civic Theater Executive Director John Hedges said that the gala is a celebration “a century in the making.”

“If you can’t have a big party when you turn 100, when can you have a big party?” Hedges said. “So we hope to really have a big celebration on June 20. We’ve already gotten a proclamation from the mayor of Carmel. We look forward to having some sort of proclamation from the governor of the state, and just to have it be a big celebration.”

Hedges wants people to know that the Civic Theatre is more than just a place that puts on plays and performances. He says the theatre’s role “is to be a catalyst for a more tolerant, empathetic, imaginative and enlightened society.”

“Through seeing life from someone else’s point of view and figuratively ‘walking in their shoes’, there can emerge a greater sense of empathy and understanding for others—and for ourselves. It is through this work of ‘holding the mirror up to nature’ that we as theatre artists make an essential contribution to our society,” said Hedges.

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