We encourage you to set aside the DVR and seek out some great theater featuring innovative scripts and Broadway-style musical favorites. How about award-winning set designs? Options like dinner theater, mystery theater and comedy? If you have children, you may also be looking for hands-on educational classes. You’ll find all this in more in a shining gem of a structure, built in 1927 with a unique ceiling design you can only see in a few theaters nationwide.
If this sounds like a road trip to Kansas City or St. Louis, Mo., think again – it’s right down the road in the heart of historic downtown St. Joseph, Mo. The cast and crew are volunteers for Robidoux Resident Theatre, or RRT, and they’re turning heads (and headlines) across the state and the Midwest for quality and creativity, show after show.
RRT is a non-profit organization that features two venues – the 1927 Missouri Theater and the historic, riverfront Robidoux Landing Playhouse – offering numerous plays, musicals, special theater events and educational opportunities throughout the year. Casting calls are open to the entire community, which offers residents an opportunity to shine with their acting talents on the stage, apart from typical roles in the workplace or other settings. Shows range from serious to hilarious, such as “A Christmas Story,” “Hairspray” and “Les Miserables.”
In fact, it’s the community base of outstanding talent across all generations that has led to the longstanding success and packed houses at RRT productions. Reading through the program for a show, you may see a local judge, a college student, a law enforcement officer, pastor or community leader on the cast or crew. Many are taking the stage as a throw back to their high school or college drama roots; others audition and find out they love being involved, either on-stage or behind-the-scenes. Three different companies are part of RRT, performing at schools and across downtown and area locations.
Speaking of scenes, be prepared to be awe-struck. The volunteers and board of RRT have earned numerous recognitions for creative, highly-detailed designs, as well as high-tech lights and sound. At regional gatherings for community theater programs, RRT is often the envy of the crowd, boasting the talents of set designer Frank Polleck.
Also unique to RRT’s brand of community theater is your ability to choose between shows at two distinct locations. The mainstage is the Missouri Theater, the city’s $1 million, 1,200-seat “Movie Palace” with amazingly ornate décor. For a more up-close selection, choose the Robidoux Landing Playhouse. Dinner theater, comedies and mystery dinners draw groups and residents back time after time to this eclectic atmosphere near the banks of the Missouri River in downtown St. Joseph. A strong following on Facebook helps residents keep informed of shows they won’t want to miss and audition opportunities.
Recently I had the opportunity to enroll my son in the RRT Theatre Academy, a six-week instructional session where young students can learn the basics of props, browse and enjoy the extensive costume collection and the basics of acting in a fun, upbeat environment. The education team was outstanding and it’s easy to see they’re bringing up the next group of talented performers. For older students, the Summer Musical Camp is a popular choice to work daily on a production and then perform on the stage.
At its essence, RRT captures what community theater is about and makes it sparkle: enthusiastic and creative volunteers; a diverse cast and a diverse show line-up; ambitions productions across all genres; and the ability to make the very best of what’s around in terms of structures and audience outreach.
As storytellers ourselves, SJC says check out the tales shared on the stage by RRT today. Prepare to be impressed.