The Waupaca Community Theater came into existence as a result of a Fox Valley Technical Institute evening adult drama class taught by Linda Zolnosky at the former Waupaca High School in the fall of 1978. Participants in that group saw a need and an interest for a community theatre in the area. As reported with the following headline in the Waupaca County Post in January of 1979, “Community Theater becomes part of Festival program”. The article related that “a delegation from the recently formed Waupaca Community Theatre presented their program and made a request from the Festival Board for financial backing. After much discussion, the Board voted to make the Community Theatre a part of the Festival program.
The first year (1979) of WCT brought to the stage the winsome comedy of “Harvey” in February, the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in May, and the Woody Allen absurdist farce “God: A Play” in August. And as the newspaper reviewer of the very first production put it “…Waupaca, Wisconsin once again shows itself to be a responsive, creative, unusual community. The sheer energy and high spirits of so large a number of volunteers is the most noteworthy feature of the “Harvey” project.”
The second show during that inaugural season, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, was the only musical produced from the group’s inception until “Cabaret” in 1998 some twenty years later. Ironically, from 1998 to the current year and, with the exception of the dinner theatre productions of “Steel Magnolias” in 2007 and “Love Letters”/”Hate Mail” in 2016, the WCT has produced only large-scale musicals.
The first years of the development of the Waupaca Community Theater organization owe a great debt to the contributions of Monica Eastman, Jim King, Cheri Marks, Faye Somers, Jim Marks, Steve Laedtke, Barb Ketchum James, and Jan Masaros Christiansen among others who provided good taste and intelligent production values and choices to the stage. The first general membership meeting in September of 1979 brought out 34 people to elect a new board and discuss the future activities of the new group.
The Waupaca Community Theatre has produced an incredible breadth of shows from an old melodrama “Dirty Work at the Crossroads”, to the classics “Our Town”, “A Doll’s House” and “Arsenic and Old Lace”, a couple of courtroom dramas, the Neil Simon comedies “Chapter Two”, “Barefoot In the Park” and “The Odd Couple”, the comedy farces “Lie, Cheat, and Genuflect” and “Love, Sex, and the IRS”, a couple of series of one-act plays, a theatrical Radio Show, a Readers’ Theater version of “In Watermelon Sugar”, a local playwright’s play “Another Slide of Life”, and the recent string of musical theater productions including “Annie”, Disney’s “Beauty and The Beast” and Stephen Sondheim’s thriller “Sweeney Todd”. On average, there were two to three productions each year until 1999 when single large-scale summer musicals became the norm.
Venues for the shows, some remaining, others gone, include the Gerald C. Knoepfel Auditorium at the current Waupaca Middle School, Oakwood Villa Supper Club, Simpson’s Restaurant, Carnegie’s, the former Waupaca County Courthouse, the former St. Mary Magdalene Church, Pipe School, Hutchinson House, Jensen Community Center (Amherst), Wild Rose, Manawa and Weyauwega Schools, the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home Auditorium, Best Western Grand Seasons, the Waupaca High School Performing Arts Center and outdoor performances at both Brainerd’s Bridge Park and South Park in Waupaca.
Over the years, the Waupaca Community Theatre has also been involved in community events away from the stage. The Theatre played host to the hugely popular Halloween “Morbid Mill” haunted house from 1984-87 and provided the “Breakfast With Santa” program from 1984-1990 to children that included a pancake breakfast, followed by a children’s Christmas play and culminated with a visit from Santa. From 1998-90 the WCT provided Clowning services for the Wisconsin Veterans Home’s Spring Open House, various non-profit organizations and several corporate employee picnic gatherings.
Also, at the instigation of Mary Calvo, WCT participated in the Waupaca Hometown Days Parade on the 4th of July to promote its productions. The themes were slightly twisted humorous play on words as in the “Waupaca Grill Team”. One rehearsal the night before provided the minimal preparation, as the WCT was one of the crowd favorites. For several years in the early to mid 2000’s, cast members squeezed boxes of lemons to sell fresh lemonade at Waupaca’s Strawberry Fest to promote the upcoming production, usually with the soundtrack of the musical and signage to support the show.
The Waupaca Children’s Theatre was an outgrowth of the Waupaca Community Theatre as a response to the overwhelming number of children who wished to participate in summer shows but perhaps were unable due to the cast size/needs or thematic elements of the summer mainstage productions. Lynda Luce and Gwen Pfeiffer-Young, upon both WCT and FAF Board approval, instituted the program in the summer of 2006. The casts of anywhere between 25-50 elementary and junior high age students annually present several performances at various locations in late July. A “mini-tour” of sorts, the program provides a wonderful learning experience for the students and a great feeder system for the Community Theatre.
The Waupaca Community Theatre’s Board of Directors meets throughout the year and puts out a call for proposals every September for interested directors regarding the following season’s shows. The solicitation of shows and directors began in 1996 and continues today. Any qualified individual with an interest in directing a show is encouraged to submit a proposal. The WCT highly encourages anyone wishing to be a part of the organization through assistance with lighting, sound, costuming, art design, set building/painting, choreography, publicity, backstage work, etc. to contact the WCT. The Waupaca Community Theatre can only continue to provide live theatre to the Waupaca area as long as volunteers continue to participate. That’s what its all about.
The Waupaca Community Theatre has been presenting outstanding productions for nearly 40 years! Talented casts, full pit orchestras, a beautiful hall ... learn about our current season, past shows, and how you can play a part.
The Waupaca Community Children's Theatre is an opportunity for young actors and actresses to be "onstage" for such musical shows as Shrek, Mulan, Seussical, and Alice in Wonderland.
The Waupaca Community Choir is a non-auditioned choir which welcomes singers of all ages and abilities. The choir has a 56-year tradition of presenting master choral works with orchestra to the greater Waupaca Community. The typical season begins rehearsals in January with a culminating performance in late March to early April.
The 2019 Waupaca Art Show will be held in April and will be the 56th annual event. It will feature art and artists from across the region and will be at a beautiful new location, the Danes Hall.