PITTSBURG, Kan. — Once again, laundry is starting to pile up and the weeds are starting to get overlooked, and that can mean only one thing: It’s Show Week for Pittsburg Community Theatre’s summer musical.

But this summer, Show Week is pretty special for many reasons.

Among them: Pittsburg Community Theatre is celebrating its 35th season of show business. Between its first production as an official organization in 1981 (“South Pacific”) and this season’s final production on tap for October ("The Odd Couple"), that’s 131 shows.

It’s mind-boggling to think of how many cast and crew members that includes and how many audience members those shows have affected. In 2013’s “Wizard of Oz,” for example, there were 90 cast members, a pit orchestra of about 20, and about 8,000 people who saw monkeys fly and munchkins hide.

Certainly it’s safe to estimate that during those 35 years, there have been thousands of cast and crew members and tens of thousands of audience members. My family and I have been among them.

On Thursday, the curtain will go up on what’s billed as a show about show business: “Gypsy, the Musical.”

It’s the second time for Pittsburg Community Theatre to produce it; the first was in 1991, when Linden Little was 10 and played the role of a newsboy in the show’s vaudeville act. Fellow 10-year-olds Sarah Hall and Jenna Spencer played a newsboy and a mime. Seth Golay got his first taste of working on the tech crew of a musical. My little brother, Neil Bryan, then 18, played percussion in the pit orchestra. And I was in the audience.

Fast forward 25 years, and Linden is now directing “Gypsy.” His mother, Mimi, who has been the prop manager for just about every show since Pittsburg Community Theatre began, has once again been searching for antique chairs and vintage suitcases and a live lamb.

Sarah and Jenna both grew up to have daughters, Bella and Alora, who have roles as a newsboy and farm boy. Seth went on to a career in acting, and his niece, Joplin High School student Michaela West — whose mother, Allison Golay Riddle, was in numerous Pittsburg Community Theatre shows with Seth — is following in their footsteps: Michaela plays a showgirl in this production of “Gypsy.” I have a bit part as a press agent, and my son, Jack, 11, is a newsboy.

Each of our families has attended and been in and directed countless Pittsburg Community Theatre shows, and each time, we have carefully stored away the memories they create, the feelings they evoke and the reflections they spur.

“Gypsy” has already spurred one big reflection for me: motherhood. Yes, there are humorous and toe-tapping scenes filled with talented young performers from across the area. There is vocal and instrumental music that’s as good as it gets. But the storyline of a mother’s relationship with her two daughters is one that resonates.

As I do whenever I attend any show or am a cast member in one, I will be a changed person when “Gypsy” is over. I’ll be filled with a new story. I’ll have either worked with or been inspired by new people and old friends. And I’ll have learned something, perhaps many things.

That, to me, is show business. And it’s well worth the piles of laundry and weeds.


Andra Bryan Stefanoni, a former Globe reporter, now works as a freelancer. She lives in Pittsburg, Kan.

Want to go?

Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium, 503 N. Pine. Tickets are available online at memorialauditorium.org or by calling 620-231-7827 during business hours. Details: pctinfo.org.

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Andra Bryan Stefanoni is a staff writer for The Joplin Globe. She has been a reporter and editor at The Pittsburg Morning Sun and the former Girard Press, has written for state and national magazines, and has taught journalism.