A theater that’s been part of the Killeen community for more than 40 years will close Aug. 31.

Vive Les Arts Theatre will present “The Little Mermaid,” July 21-30 at its 3401 S. W.S. Young Drive location. It will close for good at the end of August, though, according to an advertisement that was submitted to the Herald on Thursday.

City Manager Ron Olson confirmed the news in a phone call Thursday, saying he heard the about the closure earlier in the day.

The ad says:

“The staff and board of directors would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the local community for supporting the theater for over 40 years. We will lower the curtain for the very last time as we end our season on August 31, 2017.”

Board members could not be reached for comment.

The VLA was established in 1976. The nonprofit community theater is dedicated to excellence in the fine arts and to enriching the cultural experience of the citizens of Central Texas through quality presentations, according to its website.

Past performances include “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” “Young Frankenstein” and “High School Musical.”

It has opened its doors to host political rallies featuring former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul during his campaign for president, as well as former President Bill Clinton. Derek Phillips — an actor known for his role as Billy Riggins on the NBC television show “Friday Night Lights” — once performed a dramatic reading there back in 2008.

In March 1999, the theater came into controversy with a theft scandal, in which former Vive Les Arts administrative assistant, Connie Kay Cooper, was arrested and charged with stealing almost $120,000 in funds from the organization.

“Even though it was negative publicity, and although we were expected to lose donors, it actually increased our patrons’ support of us. People were interested and curious about the organization.” said Eric Shephard, former artistic director of the Vive Les Arts Theatre, in a 2001 interview with the Herald.

The theater building is valued at $561,576, according to Bell County Appraisal District records.

The land is owned by the city of Killeen, but the building is owned by Vive Les Arts, according to the Bell County Appraisal District website.

Olson said he contacted the city’s legal department Thursday to work through the terms of the group’s lease agreement on the city-owned land.

Board members Bary and Summer Heidtbrink, Nancy Hennigan, Cyd West, George and Stacie Dishon, Jennifer Sullivan, Leslie and John Gilmore, Diane Connell and Bill Kozlik could not be reached by phone for comment. Hilary Shine, the board’s treasurer and the Killeen director of public information, was contacted, but deferred all comment to Summer Heidtbrink. A receptionist at the VLA declined to confirm or deny the report.

254-501-7552 | sullivan@kdhnews.com

(7) comments

JohnnyinHarkerHeights

If the people of Killeen and the surrounding areas want a Theater as part of their urban environment then another one will take its place created by a grass roots effort of local residents to pick up the torch the current owners of the building are laying down.

With as many people that live in the area, a dedicated group of people should be able to quickly raise the money to buy the building and keep things in place to start their own theater company.

After all it is a non-profit entity.

There are no restrictions as to who can create a new theater organization, and I'm sure the city of Killeen would happily give a new board and director at least the same terms as the old.

UNFORTUNATELY, it's clear from the comments, the people are utterly uninterested in picking up the pieces themselves.

So the bottom line is the theater goes out of business, and big so what, because you can't find enough people in Killeen who care enough to make a difference.

Yah's daughter

So sad. I visited a few times.bi think it could have used more diversity in its plays selection. But I hate to see it go.. if we're not careful we will see a family Dollar pop up or a housing development. As if we need more of that.

CommunityHeals

Well, here we go again! I'll limit the negativity as that isn't something this community needs more of. However, this was supposed to be "Community Theater", but most of the time it didn't accurately represent the entire community. You could tell by the board members and some of the Artistic Directors that were hired, In larger cities, a community theater offers opportunities for citizens to direct, act in and become more a part of the entire process. Exposing young minds to the wonderful aspects of live theater and the arts! Hosting community "forums" about issues that may affect their future. Utilizing the ARTS to bring a community closer together through acting and music is a beautiful thing. It should never have been about just the money. I wasn't born here but I've lived in this community for over 15 yrs. and I've been a part of this theater since my feet hit the ground in Killeen. As an professional Actress, one of the first phone calls I made was to Eric Shepard, to ask if there were any auditions coming up and the magic began!
City of Killeen (I'm referring to the stakeholders and the "Powers that be"-you know who you are), open your eyes, relinquish some of the control; this is an extremely diverse community now...embrace that and come into the 21st century. You have been saying FOR YEARS that you have a vision for a vibrant community, with all of your unnecessary and exorbitantly expensive studies and your white papers! Let us strive together to make this city a destination of its own right, and stop sending our citizens with their hard earned dollars to seek entertainment in Austin, & Dallas! Killeen can be a destination, if you loosen some of the purse strings and allow others to bring a new and fresh perspective to this area! My heart aches to see the end of an era but I can only pray this theater space is allowed to live out it's existence being used for what it was originally intended to be...a third place, for the entire community!

Roodawgalum
Roodawgalum

The tell tale sign will be what occupies this building (and the backers of said occupying business) moves in next. Hopefully everything is on the up and up but only time will tell...

Pharon Enochs

Thefollowing comments are indeed the opinions of Pharon Enochs. Is this begining of the end for the City of Killeen? The cultural and theatre arts of a city has to indicate a decline in the people's view of a city's image. Could it be greed, corruption or just a desire of some who place self interests above the very city which puts food in their mouths? If you notice there are some rather noteable names on the board of directors, some who were shakers and bakers of the community. Some of the board members made a lot of money in Killeen and in return were the ones who spent a lot of money to bring some cultural and theatre pride to the community. It says a lot when these folks are giving up on one of the places of pride and added a treasure full of class to the city. I personnally am not into this type of enertainment but I still felt a sense of pride watching the program grow from it's small beginings to what it is today but sad what it will be soon. When I drove by the building I always had to look and did indeed feel proud of what the city had to offer. I guess I am one of those that took it for grainite it would always be a thing of pride which city had a vested right to brag about. Well brag no more my friends brag no more. What else lays in store for this city hopefully what I envision will not happen but it does look like Killeen is on it's way to self destruction from witin. Citizens who do not care enough to open their eyes to see what is happening in their own city. Things they could change and turn around this decline by taking a few minutes to study, think and vote meawhile not drinking the kool aide. Then you have the buzzars whose only interest is their selish needs and greed which use the citizans attitude of not caring to their advantage. Then you have the city government and some individuals within it who also use of the citizen's who seem to harbour the I could care less about what is going to their advantage. The policies passed by these officials in a lot of cases does not support city's needs but rather someone else's need or perhaps some with their hand out waiting for their 20 pieces of silver. In my opinion the city had a awesome chance to put the city both on the road to sloving its problem and finding out about how the city got into such a mess, but no some individuals on the city council and it appears to me former city officials as well as possible special interest groups fought to keep the city from doing the people's wishesfor an audit. While the audit finially was approved but it was in my opinion a shell or a very watered down version of what was wanted by the taxpayers. This is bad in it's own right but I think this opportunity was soured by the way the findings of the audit are being delivered. Instead of putting it out in the open, it is now shroud in mystery and leaving it open as if it will be doctored to suit or protect members of the community. I place a lot of fault on the city manager for starting to strech out the mistrust a lot of taxpayers had from the onset of what type audit would be done and little or no guide lines how it would be presented to the taxpayer. Then in midstream things changed about who would seeit first and so forth. The again in my opinion the city manager stepped out of his lane and apparently suggested or cautioned the city council members not to question the audit company too much about the audit. This at least to me cast a chill and raised red flags in why this was done. The contract was made known it was between the city council and the audit company not anyone one else including the city manager, I think OLson did a very poor job of trying to defend why he stuck his nose into something that was not within his job scope. In my opinion Olson did not do his research about how the present and pass councils have acted towards the public. The facts about how things have been delayed behind open records acts perhaps stalling for time, out right lies told to taxpayers and according to the audit company misuse of public funds untill the chill was put into effect. Now from my prespecive even more distrust has been created. The audit is about as useless as ice water in a snow storm. Another waste of money for something long needsd but now again in my opinion an opportunity squandered. The mini poll by this newspaper shows the majority of those taking the poll have little trust in the results. It looks to me to be another one of those Killeen officials shoots theirself in the foot with tax payers money. It maybe a day late and a dollar short but hopefully this could be the the bell which wakes up the sleeping giant, the taxpayers of this city who can and should drain the swamp. God bless America, President Trump, John Wayne wherever he maybe.

Richard North
Richard North

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.~William Shakespeare's Macbeth

countrynewsman

Just more proof this town is going down the drain. I so look forward to moving soon!

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