Oliver! hit the stage of the San Marcos High School Performing Arts Center this weekend, marking the return of local theater to the community for the first time in 26 years.
Based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, the musical adaptation tells the tale of a lovable orphan’s quest to find his place in the world.
Rick Bowen, president of the San Marcos Performing Arts Association, portrayed Fagin, the jovial pick-pocket who takes Oliver in after he escapes from the orphanage. He played Fagin 26 years ago in the last theatrical performance put on by the San Marcos community.
“Oliver was the last full-scale musical that was done for the San Marcos community 26 years ago,” Bowen said. “We wanted to do a grand scale musical because we have a stage in which to do it in San Marcos finally.”
Bowen said the San Marcos Performing Arts Association wanted to produce Oliver! because they wanted to do a musical that emphasized kids. Next summer, the SMPAA plans to hold a theater workshop for middle school kids.
“Our middle schools have had to cut back so much on drama programs,” Bowen said. “We want to provide training for kids so they can go into high school with some experience and will build our high school program as well as develop community theater in San Marcos.”
He said they will combine the summer workshop with a community theater musical and individual performances by the children who participate. Bowen said they want to use the new performance facility at the high school as much as possible.
The performers who comprised the actors and the children’s chorus in the play are students from San Marcos, Kyle and Seguin. Bowen said he enjoyed working with the children.
“It’s a delight to work with all these kids in the community,” Bowen said. “Children learn discipline through the process of preparing for a live production, and they all did and amazing job through rehearsals and the performance.”
Abby Bowers, an eighth grader at Miller Middle School in San Marcos, played the title character. She has been involved in school productions and was a finalist in the last talent show the SMPAA held.
“We’ve put in six weeks of hard work and rehearsals into this play, but I’m really going to be sad when it’s over,” Bowers said.
The 12-year-old San Marcos resident said she hopes to continue acting in local theater productions.
“I love working with these actors and we have gotten great feedback from everyone who’s seen it,” Bowers said.
Jayne Baker, curriculum and instruction lecturer at Texas State, attended the performance Saturday night.
“I think it’s wonderful that they’re bringing back the theater to San Marcos. I know it’s been dormant for awhile,” Baker said. “Seeing the performance made me feel nostalgic for when I first saw Oliver!”
Daytona Beach, Fla. resident Erin Toung was in town visiting relatives and said she decided to check out the performance.
“I wanted to get up and sing along during the play,” Toung said. “It’s good to see a community theater performance when it seems like we’re losing so much of the culture.”
Bowen said he would like to see a full-scale musical every summer in San Marcos, there needs to be more support for the arts in the community.
“We can only put on these musicals if the San Marcos community supports it,” Bowen said.
“If the San Marcos people aren’t going to support live theater in San Marcos we can’t have it. That’s the bottom line.”
By Hayley Kappes