The Whole Backstage: An extraordinary place for local theater

Since 1975, The Whole Backstage has been a rock solid community playhouse.
Since 1975, The Whole Backstage has been a rock solid community playhouse.

GUNTERSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - It's easy to see why The Whole Backstage was called "the old rock school house."

It's made of local stone and is reminiscent of a time long ago. Since 1975, it's been a rock solid community playhouse.

"Of course the auditorium was still a school auditorium with the wooden seats, and it only seated about 198," said Jane Kohl.

But a million dollar makeover from grants and private dollars allowed the facility to grow. The staff is made up of volunteers.

"We do a season of four shows, and additional shows, and the Christmas show. This year it's White Christmas and that's our annual fundraiser show."

The structure itself is like a history lesson.

"This is our first reception room and we do have patron parties in here, after each show, but again this was the old rock schoolhouse, so this was a classroom," said Kohl. "We are listed on the historic registry, so there are things about the building that we may not touch."

She points to the original windows, transoms and the chalkboard as examples. Surprises show up throughout the building like a bar that came out of the old lodge at the state park and the original wood floors which have been restored.

Forty years of posters, play bills and other memorabilia dot the walls.

"This is the Duff McDaniel little theater and it is an extra performance space."

The troupe has existed for many decades thanks to founder Dot Moore. The auditorium bears her name.

"This is our renovated theater. And as I said earlier, originally the school's auditorium would seat 198. But with our renovation we have 330 fixed seats," said Kohl.

During this visit, the stage is set for "Always Patsy Kline," and looks like the Grand Ol' Opry Stage. Curved walls showcase the acoustics.

"As you can see, there's not a bad seat in the house," said Kohl.

There is also a modern lighting and sound system second to none.

Kohl also shows us the scene shop, where all of the sets are produced, and the old cafeteria which now serves as storage for furniture for future sets.

"This is our state of the art fly system. As you see all of these ropes are connected to bars over the stage that will raise and lower the scenery."

A dressing room sign says there is "no such thing as natural beauty;" this place and the volunteers exhibit rare beauty in Bobby's Bama.

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