History of TCT

The Lyric The People  |  The Plays

Tupelo Community Theatre was born from the dreams of sixteen visionary citizens who met in the Spring of 1969 to form an organization to develop, promote, teach and stimulate interest in the dramatic arts. Jerry Napier was named President of the new organization, with Sandy Ford serving as Vice President, Martha Hitch as Secretary, and Rowland Geddie as Treasurer. Other charter board members included Marilyn Bank, Martha Geddie, Bill Hitch, Dr. Jack Kellum, Linda Kinsey, Gus Liveakos, Margaret Anne Murphey, Jean Pettis, Charlotte Westbrook, Ruth Liveakos, Edith Thomas, and Mary Alice McAlister. The remaining founding Board member, Dr. Gene Murphey, continues to serve as an emeritus member of the Board.

Since Laura, presented on October 2, 1969, at the Church Street School Auditorium under the direction of Ruth Liveakos, TCT has presented more than 300 plays, seen by literally more than 250,000 theatre-goers. In 1973, the Theatre’s first annual Summer Youth Theatre production – Lil’ Abner, directed by Ellen Short and presented in the Fellowship Hall of First United Methodist Church – was added to the three-play regular season. TCT’s first Dinner Theatre production, a collection of three one-act plays, debuted in the Ramada Inn in September, 1975.

For the first several years of its existence, TCT was a gypsy troupe, performing wherever there was available space, with performances presented at locations as diverse as the Church Street School Auditorium, the Milam School Auditorium, the Ramada Inn, the Civic Auditorium, and the Lee County Courthouse.  In 1976, the Theatre purchased an old church building on East Main and, in slightly over a month, turned it into a theatre ready for its first production – The Best Man, directed by Celia Fleishhacker. It was at the East Main building that TCT became a community fixture, presenting such well-remembered hits as Dracula, The Robber Bridegroom, Harvey, and Annie.

Although fond memories remain of the old playhouse, when the opportunity arose to purchase the Lyric Theatre in 1984, TCT plunged ahead. Starting with the premiere production of On Golden Pond, in May, Beginning with its first full season in the Lyric, TCT’s regular season expanded to four productions, including a full-scale musical presented each year during Gumtree week. Since then, TCT has added additional productions to both its regular season and as special offerings.

Since moving to the Lyric, TCT has regularly offered special performances by professionals intended as educational experiences for young people. These have included Shakescenes on Tour by Jackson New Stage, Mark Twain’s America by Will Stutts, and Love Letters by Anthony Herrera and Jessica Tandy. Recent education guest artists have included Metro Theater Company with their performance of Long Road to Freedom in partnership with St. Paul United Methodist Church. In 2009 TCT, under the leadership of Caroline Upthegrove and Carlton Wall, began the successful comedy improv troupe West of Shakerag.  That group continues to thrive and provides weekly performances at the Link Centre Black Box space. In November 2013 TCT opened a small black box space located in an old store front at 213 East Franklin.  The space seats 80 in cabaret seating and has produced award winning productions.

TCT has also been recognized by its peers for quality in its productions. In 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012,2013, 2014, and 2015, TCT won the “Best Production” award at the Mississippi Theatre Association Festival.  In 2004, its production of Bel Canto was one of the winners at the Southeastern Theatre Conference festival.  At SETC in 2013, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee won outstanding ensemble and costumes, and the show was named runner-up best production at SETC. In 2014 TCT’s first production at TCT Off Broadway, The Santaland Diaries, won at both MTA and SETC.  Lone Star, another TOB production, won MTA in 2015.  In 2014 TCT was presented with the American Association of Community Theatre’s Organizational Achievement Award for its work.   TCT and its volunteers  have won more than 70 awards in the last 20 years. This commitment to and reputation for excellence, combined with the enthusiastic support of our community, has allowed TCT to become a regional and national model for successful community theatre. As such, TCT board members and staff have become active leaders at the state, regional, and national level.

Much has changed in the almost 45 years since its first production; however, TCT’s purpose has never wavered – to develop, promote, teach, and stimulate interest in the dramatic arts.