Civic Theatre "family" brings Cabaret back to Evansville for 40th anniversary
The Civic Theatre is celebrating 40 years, and some of its key players will be in the audience Friday evening.
The theatre on the corner of Fulton and Columbia Street will be transformed, once again, to the sleazy Kit Kat Club in Berlin. As he did decades ago, the master of ceremonies will welcome the audience with his introduction.
"I don't think anybody who's truly passionate about theater can just walk away from it."
The flirtatious character is wearing little more than leather pants and glitter, but by day, the actor underneath the stage makeup is a paralegal, who works full-time at the Vanderburgh County Courthouse.
“I make time to do theatre,” Matthew Hummel said.
The Civic Theatre has been able to keep afloat year after year with volunteer performers. Some of them make it to brighter spotlights in bigger cities, and others prefer to stay here.
Hummel was one of those young performers who left to study criminology.
“When I came back to Evansville after I got the paralegal job, I thought, I can't just give up theater,” Hummel said. "I don't think anybody who's truly passionate about theater can just walk away from it."
He says the cast and crew make it work because they love the art, and they want to see it grow here.
And that passion is the glue that connects an assorted mix of people into what they are calling the Civic Theatre "family.”
“That family has existed for many, many years," Artistic Managing Director Christopher Tyner said. "This is our 89th season, and I've seen so many relationships develop out of these wonderful moments on stage over the years."
If you’re looking at the Civic Theatre family tree, at its very roots, you would find Dick Engbers and Sue Schriber. Dick was the first to hold Christopher’s job, back in 1974.
“He put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this place," Tyner said. "It's very humbling to continue the very thing that he solidified."
In its first year on Columbia street, the Civic Theatre opened with Cabaret. Sue Schriber was the leading lady, Sally Bowles.
“If Dick is the godfather of the family, she is, without question, our Momma,” Tyner said.
Christopher says the pair has been instrumental in teaching and directing and developing a theatre scene in Evansville. Dick and Sue will be the honorary guests at Friday night’s opening of Cabaret.
Emily Durchhholz, who will be playing Sally, says she got some extra insight on the role from Sue.
"She told me a little bit about the rehearsal process, and she talked about the prairie oysters," Durchholz said.
For those who aren't familiar, prairie oysters are the character Sally's favorite cure for a hangover -- "raw egg whooshed around in some Worcestershire sauce." Back in the day, Dick Engbers made Sue Schriber have a taste, so she could fully embrace her character.
"Sue said she made the prairie oyster, and she drank it, and immediately said 'excuse me,' and walked offstage to spit it out," Durchholz said.
Director Christopher Tyner says more than likely, the performance will be an emotional one for Sue to watch.
“I think she's going to sit back and reminisce, and she's probably going to roll a little tear just remembering all of the days she spent here at Civic Theatre,” Tyner said. "And I'll probably be rolling a tear with her, knowing she's sitting out there, and she's left such a beautiful legacy for generations to come."
When the curtains close on the Civic’s stage, the actors will have already started preparing for their next performance, and thanks to the Civic Theater family, the show will go on.