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Dysfunction is Funny
By Robert Waldner
Photos by Sterling Ader
If anybody can testify that art can be the best medicine, it is Elizabeth van Rensburg. In 2005, after moving from St. Augustine to Palatka with her husband Coenraad, she was plagued by a self-described “rather morbid fear of public speaking.” Her doctor presented her with two prescription options — one in pill form and the other in the form of community theater. Van Rensburg chose the latter option and 13 years later her fear is no more than a distant memory.
“I started with River City Players as a supporting actor,” says van Rensburg. “As I took on larger roles my confidence grew and my fears disappeared. Now the joke is that you can’t shut me up,” she adds. Since assuming the presidency over River City Players in 2013, van Rensburg and her team have worked year round to produce “the finest amateur theater possible.” The entire River City Players staff are volunteers.
“We are here doing what we do because we absolutely love it,” she gushes. “We are a totally dysfunctional, fun loving family.” With rave reviews after each of RCP’s four seasonal shows, she states, “The fact that we are all so close and having such fun shines through to our audiences. People tell me they can actually feel the love and camaraderie we project!” With only one week between the end of each show and auditions for the next, van Rensburg describes the contributions by herself and her team as “…full-time volunteer work.”
Often described as a Boutique Theater’due to its intimate atmosphere, River City Players’ home venue, Scarlett-Hill Theater boasts a “whopping seventy-one seats” and is located in the Larimer Arts Center at 216 Reid Street in downtown Palatka. “We call it ‘theater in your living room’ because there isn’t a bad seat in the house and if you’re in the front rows you may have to duck,” says van Rensburg. Thanks to a generous grant from Georgia Pacific and financial support from the community, River City Players were recently able to upgrade lighting, install more comfortable seating, reopen a restroom, completely repaint, and install new carpet in Scarlett-Hill Theater.
“We just finished our February production of ‘The Nerd’ to sold out crowds,” says van Rensburg. They’re now switching their focus to their next performance, Agatha Christie’s timeless classic, “And Then There Were None.” With the show scheduled for May 9th-13th, the group will open the run with their traditionally sponsored Champagne Opening Night. For ticket info or to find out how you can volunteer, visit the River City Players website or call Elizabeth at (904) 377-5044.