The Duncan Banner

May 12, 2013

Final tribute to Capers fitting

Ed Darling
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — A community project birthed in 2004 has been revived and seems headed for completion.

Plans, started with a Reunion Dinner long ago, to create a photo, program cover and memorabilia collection to recognize permanently and prominently the contribution of Duncan’s Civic Auditorium Foundation Inc. and specifically, its 40-year series of 19 Civic Capers productions, is active again.

A steering committee, headed by Bob Schick and Sue Beall and including Sharon Schick, Tommy and Kaye Jones, Shirley Richardson, Bud and Martha Burger, Dwayne Brittain and Fluff Dixon Smith, is determined to make it a reality. Soon, they hope.

It is a display long overdue.

The foundation provided the foundation, if you will, for what is now the L.B. and Ola Simmons Community Activities Center.

A 1960 magazine article about the Jerome H. Cargill Agency of New York in the old Saturday Evening Post peeked Sharon Schick’s interest enough to share the idea of a community talent show with the achievement committee of the six-club Duncan General Federation of Women’s Clubs as a way of generating monies for a badly needed theater for performing arts here.

The agency, the article explained, would provide a theme show, music, costumes and a director. The community would provide a performing site, talent, a stage crew, behind-the-scenes support and enthusiasm.

Committee approval helped the Civic Auditorium Foundation Inc., which was formed in 1960, create a Broadway-like production, Civic Capers, and commit to an aggressive goal of raising enough money to build an auditorium.

The first Civic Capers was in 1962 at the old Duncan Junior High auditorium. The last was in 1999 at the Simmons Center. In between, and usually in the Duncan High auditorium,  hundreds performed on stage in shows that became biennial, thousands of appreciative spectators enjoyed their talents and monetary progress, though small and slow, was steady.

When community direction shifted to a multi-purpose design and concept, the foundation gave land it had purchased as a site for its auditorium to the city. Cameron University’s branch is located there now. And, overall,  it donated $286,169.77 to the 750-seat Simmons Center theatre.

Sharing that story, forever, is the committee’s goal.

Plans call for a collage of photos from Capers’ performances, of special folks responsible – Jim Clary, Mildred Weedn, Marian Brown, Nell English and dozens of others -- for the program’s success, program covers, newspaper articles and appropriate memorabilia to be displayed on the west lobby wall, just inside the main entrance to the theatre.

Previous attempts to gather that type of material were successful. But most of what was collected has been, inadvertently, lost or destroyed.

So, as the committee intensifies its work, it seeks your help.

It needs crisp photos from Civic Capers’ performances. It needs group photos of participants. It needs program covers and newspaper articles. It needs copies or duplicates instead of originals, unless you’re willing to part with the original. It needs color shots, if possible. And while it seeks identification of those in the photos, it is more interested in the photo than the names if that’s an issue.

Items should be submitted to the executive director’s office at the Simmons Center. A June 15 completion goal has been set.

All of what is collected will, hopefully, be turned over to a creative artist who, with help from the committee, can assemble the package and create a meaningful, professional and historic first-class display.

The once vibrant Civic Auditorium Foundation Inc. deserves no less. Neither does the Civic Capers series and those entertainers who breathed life into the remarkable productions.

It is a project long overdue, but it also one richly anticipated as a fitting tribute and a final chapter to a glorious era.                                                                                                       580-255-5354, Ext. 130