February 14, 2023 at 5:59 p.m.

Hitting the stage with a new name

Hitting the stage with a new name
Hitting the stage with a new name

By Carol [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Melrose Stages Inc. depicts strength of community theater

The Town and Country Players have been performing spring comedies and musicals since 1969, mainly in Melrose, although they have toured doing dinner theaters. The Sauk River Players have performed summer musicals, at first on stages in Melrose and Sauk Centre, more than 40 years. 

These two community theater groups are now under one name – Melrose Stages Inc. Theater enthusiasts Marit Elliott, Andrew Engel, Audrey Hiltner, Nancy Jeske and Calli Mayers are on the board of directors.  

“We want people to know it’s live theater, and our theater is in Melrose, even though we pull people from all over for the cast, crew and audience,” Elliott said, Feb. 8, explaining the new name.

She said there were a few reasons for the name change, which included the long process of Melrose Stages, Inc. attaining non-profit status.

“If you are a non-profit you can apply for grants and accept donations,” she said. 

Elliott explained the largest cost often is a royalty paid to a production company for the rights to put on the play or musical, with a portion going to the writer of the production. 

“Most of the time it’s $3,000 to $4,000,” she said. 

It can be less and it can be more, especially if it is a newer play or musical. 

The royalty fee is determined by the number of performances, seats in the theater and tickets sold. The royalty must be paid and a contract signed before advertising for the production can begin.

Elliott said just because a theater group seeks rights to perform a play or musical doesn’t mean they will receive it.

“If a professional theater is doing, like ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ around the time you are, they won’t give you the rights,” she said. “That’s happened to us a couple of times.” 

Elliott said contacts have been signed for this April’s Melrose Stages, Inc., musical “Sister Act.” Auditions will be 7-10 p.m., Monday, Feb. 20, and Tuesday, Feb. 21, with call back at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 22, all at the Marit Elliott Performing Arts Center in Melrose. The show will be performed April 13-16.

Auditions for the summer production of “Beauty and the Beast” will be in mid-May with performances in July. 

Elliott said another plus of Melrose Stages, Inc., is the awarding of scholarships to Melrose Area High School seniors who have been in spring or summer productions.

“Last year we gave out four scholarships, with money raised through ticket sales,” she said. 

Money generated from ticket sales also helps pay for costumes, props, material to build sets, musicians, advertising, printing and salaries of the directors, choreographer and costumer. 

 “With the costumes, Nancy (Jeske) pulls them out of the air,” Elliott said laughing. “She is the costume magician.” 

Elliott estimates the prop/costume room is filled with thousands of items accumulated during her more than 50 years as a director. She laughs again saying someone once told her she’s the “Gagliardi of Melrose theater,” referencing longtime St. John’s University Football Coach John Gagliardi, which she felt was a compliment. Elliott, a retired English teacher, finds it ironic her first college major years ago was physics and today she is engineering actors.   

She loves that during her years as a director, the all-ages cast and crew bring various talents to the stage. 

“That’s the strength of community theater,” Elliott said. 

That’s the strength of Melrose Stages, Inc.  


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