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Pocket Community Theatre rebounds after multiple burglaries

January 27, 2019

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — After a string of burglaries threatened to freeze the Christmas production at the Pocket Community Theatre, volunteers and donors stepped up to ensure the show went on, and now the newly elected board president hopes to keep the momentum going for the rest of 2019.

“The response from the community and the donations that came in has been wonderful. From a financial standpoint, we are going to be able to replace all of those items (we lost) with no problem,” said board President James Kendall to The Sentinel-Record .

On Oct. 29 and 30, 2018, Shamus Michael Forsberg, 27, of Hot Springs, allegedly broke into the theater and stole much of its production equipment just three weeks before opening night of the Christmas show “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”

“We were able to get some of our stuff back. The police department was able to recover several items but some of it was just gone and the police said we would never see it again,” Kendall said.

Unrecovered items included several wireless microphones, a laptop, a television, power tools, and other items that could be easily sold. They were able to recover one of the light boards, two of the televisions, and some power tools.

“We had a great show (following the burglaries). They had not intended to use the wireless microphones, so that worked out well. The show went on and was successful. The biggest thing during that time was the stress involved ... but we didn’t skip a beat as far as the performance was involved.

“We did replace the light board and the one we are using now is very complex. We had a couple of volunteers just dedicate hours and hours to learn how to program it and how to use it. They were able to successfully use that in the show. Now, what we will run into after is cross training the rest of our tech volunteers on how to use that. It’s still a work in progress,” he said.

In the midst of all the chaos, volunteers at the theater were in the process of preparing for a renovation. Months beforehand, Kendall had secured a large donation of theater-style seating from the University of Arkansas. A group of volunteers had taken a caravan of trucks and trailers up to Fayetteville to retrieve the chairs.

Once they arrived back in Hot Springs, theater volunteers then counted and stored the chairs ahead of having them installed. The installation of the chairs was funded through a donation from Tri-Lakes Ornamental Iron Works.

“Over 100 man hours went into getting the chairs ready for installation. They are true theater-style chairs and offer more leg room. We were able to add 25 more seats to our theater,” he said.

The chairs were installed just in time for their upcoming production of “I do, I do!” which opens the first weekend of February. The show follows the story of Michael and Agnes over the course of 50 years, from their wedding night up until the day they move into a retirement home.

“Over those 50 years, they live in the same house and have the same bed. The story is based around their life and all the scenes take place in that same room. You see them go through pregnancy, childbirth, the rough times, the kids getting married, empty nesting, and then finally, they get to an age where they cannot take care of a house that big and they move into a retirement home. It’s a beautiful story and a musical with 22 songs sung along to live music provided by Kristen La Madrid,” Kendall said.

Kendall noted that the first show of the 2019 season is dedicated to a dear friend of the theater, Gene Forsyth, who died at the end of 2018. Forsyth and his wife, Margaret, volunteered for more than 20 years and served in nearly every conceivable capacity behind the scenes.

At the beginning of January, Kendall took over the position of president for the theater’s board of directors. Although he has only had just a few weeks in the position, he is already implementing big changes for the future.

“We really have some big building maintenance things that we want to address this year. We are looking to do some painting in the auditorium and one of our big projects is remodeling the bathrooms. We are also looking at getting hearing-impaired sound devices. We want to give our audience who may be hard of hearing the opportunity to wear headphones or earpieces so they can better enjoy the show,” he said.

During his first board meeting as acting president, Kendall implemented several committees, one of which involves working closely with area high school theater programs. He said his overall goal is to offer workshops for students and provide them with a space to put on performances.

“We have a wonderful theater here and we put on wonderful shows. So much of Hot Springs just doesn’t know we are here and we’re just trying to expand our brand so that they know and can come see our great live theater.

“I’ve been with the theater now going on three years and I absolutely love everyone that’s involved. The theater has really become a second home to me. It is very near and dear to my heart. I’m very excited to see what 2019 brings,” he said.

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Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com