Cathryn Sanders prays the same prayer each time she picks a season or sends a casting call for Angelo Civic Theatre: “Oh please let the right people walk through that door.”
“And I’m telling you,” ACT’s artistic director added, “they do. Every. Single. Time. And it is magical. There’s so much talent in this town.”
Listening to Sanders talk about community theatre generally, and Texas’ oldest continually running community theatre specifically, is like watching “Terms of Endearment” – equal parts funny, lively, heartwarming and emotional. Such are the depths of Sanders’ charisma and her passion for her art.
Sanders, 36, got “bit by the bug” at age 13 when she followed her sister to ACT’s teen summer workshop. She has since studied theatre in high school and college, performed professionally in an improv troupe and as a standup comic, and taught in high school and college.
While acting teaches its practitioners about the human condition, the experience becomes otherworldly when an audience is present, she said.
“For them to be affected by what you’re doing on that stage is a feeling like none other,” she said. “Unless you’ve been up there and experienced it, it’s difficult to describe.”
The same can be said about the dynamics of community theatre. Casts and crews from all walks of life come together for a singular purpose for six to eight weeks. In the process, they form a new family.
“They’re not there for any other reason than to just feel accepted and have a creative outlet,” Sanders said. “That’s awesome.”
“Awesome” is also an apt description of ACT’s recent run of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Sanders herself directed the production and its cast of 30. The show proved so popular, it was extended another weekend to meet the public demand for tickets.
“This was just one of those shows,” Sanders said. “Everyone just loved one another. And I truly think that’s why the show was so successful. What really read to San Angelo was how much heart these people had – for the show, but also for one another.”
Though she was sheepish about asking the group to extend the musical’s run, the cast didn’t hesitate.
“At the heart of it, they just wanted to be together one more weekend,” Sanders said. “Closing that show and having to say goodbye was very difficult.”
Sanders’ gifts have also benefited the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health – a partnership she said has “blessed me more than they’ll ever know.” She has staged plays to raise funds for breast cancer treatment for women who can’t afford it. And she has emceed programs aimed at empowering girls and college women.
Girls, she said, must be taught they are “smart, and they are strong, and they are brave, and they are independent – and all the things they should be told they are besides … pretty … and thin. We’re doing them a disservice if we aren’t honest with all the things they’re capable of doing besides being pretty.”