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Pyramid Players to celebrate 40-year mark

  • Tracey Webb looks on as her daughter, Josie, prepares to rehearse 'It's a Hard-Knock Life' from 'Annie,' one of the numbers to be performed at the Pyramid Players gala next weekend. The Webbs are just one of several sets of parents and children sharing the stage for the 40th anniversary event.

    Tracey Webb looks on as her daughter, Josie, prepares to rehearse 'It's a Hard-Knock Life' from 'Annie,' one of the numbers to be performed at the Pyramid Players gala next weekend. The Webbs are just one of several sets of parents and children sharing the stage for the 40th anniversary event.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Brian Summers directs a rehearsal of the finale for the Pyramid Players 40th anniversary gala next weekend.

    Brian Summers directs a rehearsal of the finale for the Pyramid Players 40th anniversary gala next weekend.
    Holly Kee photo

  • The 40-year legacy of Pyramid Players began in 1977 with the production of a new musical, 'Godspell.'

    The 40-year legacy of Pyramid Players began in 1977 with the production of a new musical, 'Godspell.'
    Facebook/Pyramid Players

 
 
Posted on 7/12/2017, 12:28 PM

When a small group from Benton staged "Godspell" in 1977, they had no idea that a tradition was born that would continue for the next 40 years.

"We took what we loved to do and just ran with it," says Brian Summers, one of the group that became Pyramid Players.

The Pyramid Players will celebrate its 40th anniversary next weekend with a gala at the Benton Civic Center, showcasing moments from past shows.

In its 40-year run, the group has produced an astonishing number of kids who have gone on to making a living in the entertainment industry. That group includes performers, teachers and technical crew.

Rend Lake College theater professor Tracey Brioullette Webb is just one of those.

"Summer stock theater is the best thing you could have," she says. "We need cultural arts. We need this enrichment in this small community."

Webb, who has several Pyramid Players credits to her name, is one of several veteran performers sharing the stage with her own child for the gala. Webb and her daughter, Josie, share several numbers.

"It's very exciting," she says. "It's the first show where we've ever been on stage together."

Alicia Leffler is another performer whose summer craft blossomed into a career. Leffler first performed with Pyramid Players in 1987 and has been directing children's shows since 1994.

"I can't imagine a summer without it," she says. "It's what we do to continue our craft and bring musical theater to southern Illinois."

Leffler, who plays piano in the pit orchestra, also has children in the show.

Mark Atkins will also take the stage for the gala. Atkins was an "original" from 1977 and did five shows, including the 25th anniversary gala.

"It's special because it's a legacy kind of thing," he says. "My kids were in Pyramid Players through the years."

Benton Grade School librarian Deidra Sanchez will share the stage with her daughter, Macy, an incoming junior at Benton High School. The gala will be the sixth performance for each of them. Sanchez did shows growing up.

"I came back when I saw Macy having so much fun," she says.

Gina McCann is another original cast member returning to the stage. Over the years, McCann, whose daughter, Jodi was in several productions, has worked with costuming for the troupe.

Pyramid Players began its run with "Godspell," which was a relatively new musical at the time. School chums Brian Summers and Allan Kimball found success and knew they were onto something that southern Illinois needed. The next year, the group presented "Narnia" in the old Capitol Theatre on the Benton Public Square. In the third season, the group moved to Rend Lake College, presenting "Cinderella."

In its 40-year run, the group that now includes Kimball's wife, Pam, and Summers' wife, Susan, as well as a list of volunteers that would fill a small book, has staged more than 100 shows that offered over 2,800 roles for aspiring actors and actresses from the area. Summers says the 40-year-milestone is a big accomplishment.

"A lot of groups of this kind die on the vine and go away," he says. "We're still going and we have new blood, fresh families coming in."

Webb says the "whole process is exciting," and she hopes people will come out and enjoy themselves.

"I know I'm enjoying this," she says. "I don't know what we'll do if this ever stops."

Tickets are still available for the gala to be held at 7 p.m. July 21 and 22. The $20 ticket includes a dessert bar and beverage as well as an evening of what Webb describes as "one show-stopper after another." To reserve a ticket, visit bentonciviccenter.ticketleap.com.