The Rantoul Theatre Group: Lend Me A Tenor

AUG 30 - 10.00PM

The appearance of the opera star Italian tenor Signor Tito Merelli will be the highlight of the Cleveland Grand Opera Co.'s most important fundraiser for the 1934 season.  But, luck is not on his side, and he is presumed dead after passing out due to a series of mishaps.

When a "Dear John" letter is mistaken for Tito's suicide note the company stands to lose $50,000 in ticket sales unless they can find a way for the "dead" singer to deliver the performance of his life!

The Rantoul Theatre Group is not the first incarnation of community theatre in Rantoul. A predecessor existed back in the 1980s, but was disbanded due to lack of performance space and volunteer efforts.

In 1994, after the Air Force Base closed, an attempt was made to resurrect community theatre, calling itself, the Genesis Players. Formed by the late Al Aden, longtime Rantoul resident and businessman, it was comprised of actors from Champaign-Urbana, Rantoul and Paxton, who came together to build a stage and set in the hanger of the Octave-Chanute Aerospace Museum. Ray Boudreaux, then Aviation and Economic Development Director for the city, and his wife Sherri, and active volunteer with the museum, were instrumental in organizing the event. That group, in turn, gathered a cast, crew, and arranged for a caterer to prepare dinner, for the production of "Barefoot in the Park", a famous Broadway play, made into a movie, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. The show was a success, but with out a suitable location for continuous performances, the Genesis players faded.

In February of 1999, then Village Board member, Bonnie Moran, wrote an editorial lamenting the absence of theatre in Rantoul. A small group of people came together as a result of that editorial, forming the Rantoul Theatre Group. They met at the Village Administration building and set about finding a location and choosing their first show.

After several months investigating various former Air Force properties that were being redeveloped, the RTG asked the village for some storage space, and they were introduced to Grissom Hall. As many of the patrons and volunteers of the RTG know, Grissom is very large and a person can easily get lost. In one of those instances of searching for the front door, we found an auditorium, which was a great size for the new group. They set about getting permission, building a small stage, and rehearsing for the show.

10 Little Indians opened August 28th, 1999. It was a total success and everyone had a great time putting it together. The next season, they scheduled 3 shows, with the 2 directors, Michael C. Nelson and James L. Seay, alternating directing duties. Lend Me A Tenor, The Odd Couple, and Tom Sawyer were produced, to enthusiastic reviews. Many different people helped us, extending the stage, putting permanent seating, building a control booth, and many more areas.

The fall of 2000 also brought more volunteers, including Todd Isaacs, Thelma Morgan, and Jessica Holmes, who all went on to act, direct, accept Rtg Board positions, and were even elected as RTG officers.

With the growing pool of directors and volunteers, the RTG began to increase the number of shows per season. Spoon River Anthology, the Nerd, and the Wizard of Oz comprised season 3, and season 4 was expanded to include Deathtrap, Play it again, Sam, 12 Angry Jurors, and the Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Season 5 saw us expand further, with Glass Menagerie, Aurora: The Sleeping Beauty, Faith County, Nunsense, and A Christmas Carol.

During that time the RTG continued to expand its facilities, with separate shops for sets, painting, costumes, properties, electrical equipment, and makeup. The RTG office was referbished and dressing rooms were setup. The Village of Rantoul also joined in, by having carpet installed, upgrading heating and air conditioning systems in the building. The bathrooms and entrance way were remodeled, and a circle drive, with landscaping and an awning were installed.




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