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.