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Family Playtime! Join in the Fun!
by Susan Johnson
photos by Mark Cubbedge
When you think of performance art, it’s a pretty safe bet that the city of Palatka in Putman County, Florida isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But, guess what? We’re about to change all that…and we’ll probably tweak your perception of community theatre just a little bit while we’re at it. So, find your seats, open your programs and let us introduce you to the small-town theatre group with the big-city talent – The River City Players.
River City Players got their start years ago when two thespians named Betsy Scarlett and Marchetta Hill took their vision of live theatre to the streets or, more accurately, to the Larimer Arts Center, located at 216 Reid Street in the heart of downtown Palatka. While there have been many changes over the years, the current troupe performs on-stage in the 70- seat, Scarlett-Hill Theatre, under the guidance of Palatka resident, Elizabeth Holiday-van Rensburg. Holiday-van Rensburgis quick to point out though, that not one member of the River City Players is any more or less important than anyone else in the group – herself included. “We couldn’t be as creative, innovative and passionate about theatre if we weren’t all equal participants. That’s what feeds us as actors and makes every single performance so unique and special. We’re not just up there on stage doing what we’re told – we’re up there on stage doing what we love. What we’ve created as an acting family.”
Marty Fillman agrees. Fillman is a long-time Palatka resident and business owner (Marty’s Trailer Depot and M.E. Lighting & Electric), who has always wanted to act but, until recently, just couldn’t find the time. Then, as sometimes happens, life threw Fillman a curve ball – he caught it, ran with it, and hasn’t looked back since. “To me, what makes River City Players different is that we are all very involved in each production, we all want each other to succeed and we all want our audiences to have the best experience we can possibly give them. Elizabeth is easy to work with and she lets you add your own little touches to the performances. No two shows are ever exactly the same. And she’s right about family. We’re a pretty close-knit group. Her husband even builds our sets.”
There it is again…the “f” word. But there really IS a family feel to these performances. The Scarlett-Hill Theater is a small, intimate, up-close-and-personal, boutique-type theatre, but the actors never seem to be acting…they seem to be interacting… and they are talented and dedicated enough to make it seem like we are all right up there on stage with them while they do. Want to see for yourselves? Up next on the River City Players’ roster is “Getting Sara Married”, a romantic comedy by Sam Bobrick that will be presented May 10th – May 14th.
For more information, a list of upcoming performances, and how to purchase tickets, please call Holiday-van Rensburg at (904) 377-5044 or visit the River City Players website.
The River City Players. You might not actually BE family – but you’ll feel like you are.