Doni Kiffmeyer, Jimmy Ferro, and Christy Williams have extremely comfortable banter between them. They’ve been friends for years, originally brought together by Moab Community Theater—a group formed in 1973 that put on multiple, professional-level plays and musicals in and around Southeast Utah.
But for the past few years, engagement with the group has dwindled. Long-time members left Moab or passed away; Moab became more seasonal, meaning the group brought in few new members; and producing a show is a time-consuming hobby, one that many who live in Moab now don’t have time for.
This year, fifty years after Moab Community Theater was founded, the three friends are trying to bring MCT back into the spotlight: on Wednesday, March 1, MCT will hold a meeting at 5:45 p.m. at the Grand County Public Library for anyone in the community who is interested in acting, set building, play directing, show production; really, anyone interested in theater.
“We would love to keep the theater going—it’s been going for so long,” Kiffmeyer said. “The few of us who are still around, who were involved, we’re all much older. For me, it’s a lot harder to memorize lines—but I can produce plays, direct plays, build sets, and we can teach all those things to the next generation.”
MCT has always been a “labor of love,” he said. The theater has always been all-volunteer, with the costumes and sets funded through ticket sales or program ad sales. The group has a bank account, Ferro said, and there’s still enough money in the bank to put on a few more shows.
“What we want now is a new group of younger people who want to do theater,” Ferro said. “We hope young people who are interested in the aspects of performing can see the resources that we can offer them.”
MCT was founded in 1973 by Jean Roberts, who Williams called an incredibly passionate and funny woman—the first show ever put on by MCT was “Bus Stop,” a 1955 play written by William Inge.
Over the years, MCT spawned many theater spinoffs—The FlyByNyte Players, March Hare Players, Loan Star Productions, OKOKOK Productions, Tributary Theater, Moab Mystery Theater—and “pretty much any theater that happened outside of the high school was MCT driven,” Kiffmeyer said. In its heyday, the group was incredibly close, throwing fantastic cast parties, putting on professional shows, and even taking shows on the road. The regular cast members got used to spending nearly the whole winter putting together a show, Williams said, estimating that the group has produced around 80 shows in its history. Bigger productions could take up to three months to put on; smaller ones around six weeks.
Kiffmeyer still has a folder of MCT playbills performed in Star Hall: “The Lion in Winter,” put on in 1977 starring Michael Ashcroft and Dannelle Stevens; “Summer and Smoke,” in 1983 starring Molly Stevens and Orion Inskip-Spykerman; “The American Dream,” “The Real Inspector Hound,” and “Talking With …” all produced in 1987; “The Seven Year Itch” in 1991 (by that year, the group had put on 30 shows), staring Kiffmeyer; “The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch” in 1995; “Harvey” put on for six nights in 1997, starring Lisa von Koch and Mary McGann; “Winter Shorts: Three Adult Comedies” in 1998; “Exit the King” in 2004, “Fuddy Meers” in 2006, starring Kiffmeyer and Emily Niehaus; “Vipassana the Musical” in 2011, written by Kaki Hunter; and so many more, along with old photos and flyers. In the early 2000s, the group was popular enough that it extended an invite to the community on the last Sunday of every month to meet and discuss plays.
“What would happen is, someone would come to a meeting and say, ‘I read this play and it blistered me. I need to see this thing done,’” Williams said. “And if they really needed to see the thing done, they would say, ‘I’ll direct it, or I’ll produce it, or I’ll have a reading at my house.’ They got sucked in, and they gave birth to the thing.”
MCT drew actors from all over the community—the group regularly partnered with Grand County High School, something Kiffmeyer, Williams, and Ferro remember warmly as a way to help budding theater kids grow. There was a moment when it felt like everyone in the longtime Moab community had participated in a show in one way or another, in acting or producing or set building.
But people got busy, and Moab got expensive: Williams said she remembers when she could live in Moab for only $6,000 per year, saving enough money during the season that she could take the entire winter off to participate in MCT shows. Now, the group hopes to reach back out to the community, to find people willing to devote themselves again to the theater.
Williams said when she joined MCT at the urging of Jean Roberts, she felt like she found her people—something Kiffmeyer and Ferro agreed with.
“It’s like coming home … It’s incredibly moving, it’s very bonding for people,” Kiffmeyer said. “My best friends in this town are people who I’ve done theater with.”
The open-interest meeting is on March 1: anyone with even a minimal amount of interest is invited to stop by, Ferro, Williams, and Kiffmeyer said; people can also contact email@example.com with questions.