Village Players act to fix historic Valrico theater
VALRICO - For more than 30 years, the Village Players have taught drama and produced entertaining shows in the James McCabe Theater, the old Valrico Civic Center. But the 97-year-old theater needs work, so the theater group is raising money for the restoration. For three weekends, beginning Friday, the Village Players will present "Miracle on 34th Street" to usher in the holiday season. Admission proceeds will help finance restoration.The theater's leaky roof has been repaired but needs replacing, said Gail Pierce, the Village Players' vice president. Damaged tongue-in-groove wood flooring has been covered with plywood as a safer, but unattractive, substitute. In addition to raising funds through its performance, the theater group is reaching out to the community for help — for time or talent. People and money are needed to paint, repair masonry, reinforce the storage loft, haul debris, fix the plumbing or install a kitchen sink. Carpet remnants are needed for soundproofing — as is a refrigerator, a lawn mower or lawn service. In addition to the usual tax receipts for charitable contributions, donors will get their names in program ads and tickets to performances. "We want them to see what their efforts are actually accomplishing in their community; we want them to enjoy it and be a part of it," said Pierce. Pierce, who has been with the Village Players since the 1970s, returned to an active role in the theater this year after stepping away for four-and-a-half years to battle cancer. "It sounds horrible, but having cancer at a young-enough age can be a very positive thing," the 56-year-old said. "You learn to regroup, take stock of your life and put things in perspective. It made me very much aware that making a difference, hopefully a positive difference, while you're here is the whole thing." Pierce and the late James McCabe, for whom the Valrico theater was named, taught acting classes, making a difference in students' lives. On "Miracle on 34th Street" performance nights, the theater will collect supportive letters, holiday cards and store-bought cookies for troops overseas. "Miracle on 34th Street," the story of the power of faith, represents Pierce's credo. "I believe the community will pull together for a good cause," said Pierce. "I could sign the theater building back over to the county, but if everybody's willing to help me make this into a teaching theater like Jim (McCabe) wanted, then I will bust my butt one more time. I'm talking tried-and-true classic plays that you teach people on. … We're going to make (this theater) beautiful inside and out."