As the curtain fell for what may very well be the final time at the Vive Les Arts Theatre in Killeen, the audience let out a deafening cheer for the cast and crew.
Area residents packed the house for the sold-out final showing of “The Little Mermaid,” and the musical numbers and set design did not disappoint. The VLA staff actually received one of the loudest cheers of the night before the show had even started when director Jerry Morrison took the stage to speak.
“Stacie (Dishon) and Summer (Heidtbrink) have been fighting tooth and nail for your theater, and they are not going to let you down,” Morrison said. Dishon and Heidtbrink are on the executive board of VLA and have fought against the theater’s closing since it was announcement July 6.
The announcement was made in an ad submitted to various news sources in the community, and said “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.”
Soon after the board made the announcement to VLA staff, supporters launched a campaign to keep the theater open.
Heidtbrink, who serves as chairman of the board, decided to hold a public meeting Tuesday to potentially overturn a decision by the VLA theater’s board of directors to shutter the doors after more than 40 years in Killeen.
“We want to pack this theater Tuesday night,” Morrison said. “We want to hear from all of you.”
He had to stop speaking because, even with the assistance of a microphone, much of what he said would have been lost after the cheers and applause that followed his announcement.
Wasting no time, “The Little Mermaid” began, and cast and crew did not leave the audience wanting. Many of the people in the audience gave the show rave reviews during intermission.
“Their voices are just amazing; the lady who plays Ariel (Lauren Carlson) is spot-on,” Lisa Gallup said. Gallup was attending the show with her friend, and said she has been to several of the performances in the past and tries to attend two to three shows each season. “I live in Temple, and there just isn’t any place else around here that does this. You have to be willing to drive to Austin to see something like this.”
Other audience members were attending a show at VLA for the very first time, and expressed disappointment that it may have been the theatre’s final show.
“This is the first show I have seen here, and it is excellent so far,” Brian Adams said. Adams was watching the show with his wife and their two daughters. “We decided to come to a show because we think our daughters (ages 4 and 2) are finally old enough to appreciate it.
“My wife got the ticket back in February I think, so we had no idea this might be the last show,” he said. Adams said he hoped the members of VLA would keep the theater open.
At the public meeting, anyone in attendance will be allowed to speak, but only current members of VLA are allowed to vote.
If VLA members decide to uphold the decision to close, the next step is to set a meeting to discuss steps to dissolve the organization. If the decision is reversed, nominations for new board members will be accepted.
“I’ve been to ‘Scrooged,’ ‘The Nut Cracker,’ and several others,” Gallup said. “I hope the theater stays open. There is just nothing else like this around.”