In the fall of 1983, Steve and Tricia Crawley put a notice in the Mesquite newspaper inviting any interested persons to a meeting at their home to start a community theater in Mesquite. Approximately six people came that first night, including a friend or two of the Crawleys. Tricia Crawley provided the artistic leadership of the fledgling group, being our resident actress, and Steve marshaled the other members to raise funds, find rehearsal and performance space, and get the word out that Mesquite now had a community theater. They also made flats, scrounged props and costumes, recruited directors and actors, and tried even harder to raise money. The bylaws to make Mesquite Community Theater a non-profit corporation were signed on Jan. 24, 1984.
The first rehearsal space was the fellowship hall of a local church. The first two shows were performed at Mesquite High School (some of us still remember the flying cockroaches backstage). Eat Your Heart Out was performed with the curtain as the backdrop, and chairs, tables, different colored tablecloths represented the various restaurant settings. The second show, Bell, Book and Candle, had the first flats MAT built as the backdrop. After that, MAT performed in various churches for some time. This meant the set had to be built every Thursday night and torn down after the performance on Saturday night. There was a nightmare of an old light board that worked sometimes and lights on two opposing poles that resulted in maddening shadows on stage. We performed wonderful plays such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. In those days, as it is now, it was thought important to have an audience for dress rehearsals, so Senior Centers members were invited free of charge. These were sometimes the biggest audiences of the run. Today, we continue the tradition of inviting senior citizens from assisted living facilities to our preview performances.
Then, there was a wonderful time when we rented the abandoned church owned by the City of Mesquite, now used by Mesquite Social Services. The theater group had to build a stage, and borrow hard chairs every week, but we were getting pretty good at both building and borrowing. After that, more churches and high schools were used for performance space. The theater tried to buy an old tumbledown building, planning to renovate it, but the City condemned the building, which was probably just as well. After that, the theater was a storefront on Galloway. It was never a very comfortable space, but a more suitable, permanent home could not be found.
At last some of our prayers were answered when in 1995 the city bought an old hospital, renovated one part to be our Black Box Theater, and built the rest as the Mesquite Arts Center. In 1996, we opened our first season in our brand new facility. This is where we perform today. Throughout these past years, the Black Box Theater and its merry band of actors, directors, producers and technicians has gained a reputation for maintaining high production standards and presenting quality plays season after season. They and the theater have received accolades from much of the Metroplex acting community.
Mesquite Community Theatre strives to provide live theatrical entertainment to the eastern Dallas County region that is a cut above traditional community theater fare. To this end, MCT will engage with the community served and will work diligently to attract the best talent, producing a rich blend of entertaining, challenging and, occasionally, thought-provoking work.
Like any non-profit, Mesquite Arts Theatre thrives on the good will and hard work of its volunteer base, so, as a consequence, we’re constantly on the prowl for new blood. (Hey, like what we did there? Prowl? Blood?) Anyway, if you have an interest in theatre or have always wanted to be involved in some way, we want to hear from you. If you’ve always wanted to act, come on down. Our auditions are open to any and everyone. If you think the technical stuff is more interesting, let us know. We’ll hunt you down with a slew of opportunities to choose from. And, if being directly involved with the product onstage isn’t in your wheelhouse but you want to help anyway…well…there’s room for you too. Just let us know. 972-216-8126