Back in 1965 a group of eight persons became aware that there was a need for an organization dedicated to theatre under the direction of one who not only had been trained in theatre but who knew the psychology of community involvement. As an outgrowth of these eight persons’ acute observations, a theatre was planned, incorporated, and opened which indeed from its first day operated under the direction of a professional. The theatre was to be for everyone, for all ages, for all types of theatre productions. And from its inception, Artists Civic Theatre & Studio, Inc. has not only offered a variety of productions, but a variety of experiences to the many who have walked through the doors as actors, technicians, and audiences. There have been classes for the young as well as productions for them in which they have performed. There have been musicals, dramas, and comedies. Many of the scripts which have been offered have been written specifically for ACTS youth classes.
During the early years, the director could not be afforded on a full-time basis. As a result, he took employment as assistant professor at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches from which he commuted almost daily (then, three hours in each direction) to conduct rehearsals. During the three years he traveled from NSU each day, ACTS offered THE KING AND I, LITTLE MARY SUNSHINE, STOP THE WORLD… I WANT TO GET OFF, THE LION IN WINTER, TAKE HER, SHE’S MINE, THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES, and BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, among others. ACTS operated with producers who did the many duties associated with any production in lieu of the director’s being accessible daily.
These were the years of Sandy Sterness, Mary June Malus, and Barbara Price Cox. These were also the years at the Arcade Theatre, where ACTS was born, and of the Bilbo House, where ACTS met, had classes, and conducted board of director meetings. In 1969 the director moved a bit closer, to Lafayette, which is only an hour’s drive away. The daily drive cut down, more things were planned. Classes for CTS and Cotton Candy Players were conducted in space at old Chenault in the ACTS Rehearsal Hall in which the youngsters also performed.
This was the time of the first production of HELLO, DOLLY!, THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, and other productions. The early ACTS board presidents were Gus Quinn, Jr., Perry R. Dickinson, Harold Bachrack, and Daniel Ieyoub. During Ieyoub’s presidency, the ACTS director — four years weary of road travel — indicated that he would have to return or put himself in some sort of “rest and recuperation” mill. It was at this time that the theatre engaged its director for its full-time guidance.
The early 70’s saw productions of MAN OF LA MANCHA, LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO THE NIGHT, GYPSY, BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE, FUNNY GIRL, SHOWBOAT; and it was during the late spring of 1973 after the production of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN and the ‘73 ACTA AWARDS that the Arcade was closed for good, lost to performing groups who had used the facility.
The warehouse theatre on Church Street was founded by Harold Bachrack. The facility was converted from a warehouse into an arena theatre by the likes of Bob Ferguson, Harold Backrack, Gus Quinn, Jr., Bill Mixon, Joe Bondurant, and many others. They worked many nights into the wee hours of the morning back in 1973 to get the theatre space ready for the opening at Christmas of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. This facility housed many productions which ACTS offered: NIGHTWATCH, CABARET, SWEET CHARITY, but in 1976 the warehouse theatre was closed during the dress rehearsal night of DAMN YANKEES. The production moved that very night to the stage of Lake Charles High School, where the show opened the next night as scheduled.
Then board president, Roland Sherwood, spent many an anxious moment before we got the show to LCHS. Then the odyssey was on. For the next number of years ACTS moved to any stage it could schedule for its performances: LCHS housed GODSPELL, GOD’S FAVORITE, LI’L ABNER, TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, VANITIES, ON GOLDEN POND, THE PAJAMA GAME, and ROMANTIC COMEDY (which was the last one presented there).
At McNeese, the Ralph Squires stage housed THE ELEPHANT MAN and TRIBUTE — the main auditorium, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. Central School had THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT, THE SMELL OF THE CROWD.
LaGrange housed AUNTIE MAME. COMPANY was offered at Lake Charles Country Club, CHAMPAGNE COMPLEX was at the Holiday Inn. THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, THE BOYFRIEND, BAD HABITS, THE APPLE TREE and others were presented at the Sheraton Chateau Charles. The HILTON was the site of ACTS sponsored visiting, MUSICAL REVUE.