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North Texas town showcases local talent, community theater in unique, outdoor setting

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Theater is all about getting the word out. Going out to a show. Trying out for a play.

And, in Kennedale, it literally includes being out — as in outside.

Kennedale Community Theatre in the Park was created in the fall of 2017 by a group of retired and current educators from the Kennedale school district. The idea was to offer another outlet for theater-goers in the area, but with a different style.

“We knew we wanted our Community Theatre to be unique, and with the perfect outdoor venue at the Kennedale Town Center, we decided our performances would be outdoors in this beautiful park,” said Linda Graddy, one of the founders and a member of the board of directors.

Kennedale Town Center is located behind the library, police station and city hall.

With Rose Watson, Graddy was a part of producing more than 15 musicals at James Arthur Intermediate School, where Danny Greenfield was principal. Greenfield, also on the board, regularly played a role in those productions.

Graddy retired from KISD in May of 2017, but the group didn’t want the musical adventures to end. So the seed was planted backstage, during the final performance of “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.,” to start a community theater in Kennedale.

“I knew I was going to miss musical theater, so this was the perfect opportunity to keep it going, while at the same time, serving our community of Kennedale,” Graddy said.

The board of directors also includes Mayor Brian Johnson, Kara Lynn Greenfield, Pam Eason, Trisha Mata, and Kim Hunt. They and all participants in the theater are volunteers.

“The community theater brings out the best in our citizens and town,” Danny Greenfield said.

To which Kara added, “The theater brings the community together by showcasing the talents of community members, and representing the diversity of Kennedale.”

The inaugural show was “Music Man, Jr.” in the spring of 2018. They followed in December with a Christmas show, “Closed for the Holidays”. Their next production will be “Seussical, Jr” on April 26-27 at 7 p.m. All shows are free and folks are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets, along with snacks and drinks - though alcohol is discouraged.

“Jr.” shows are shorter versions of the popular versions. “It’s risky because of the weather, but our backup play is ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’” Mayor Johnson said with a laugh. “But it’s just a great way to spend an evening. They’re probably your grandparents or your children up there.”

Speaking of children, Graddy said the group is considering a children’s summer camp if there is enough interest. In October, they are having a fundraiser in the park called “Kennedale’s Got Talent.”

“We are tossing ideas around for next spring’s show, but don’t want to release those yet,” Graddy said. “Since we are so new and small, we are taking it show by show.”

Graddy said sitting under the large trees gives the atmosphere “truly a small town feel.”

However, Johnson said having a strong community theater can be good for growth.

“Companies like to go places where their employees can be active and enjoy life. You need for people to want to come live in your city, and a good theater helps,” he said.

The Kennedale Arts and Cultural Foundation offers some support for the group, Graddy said. The rest of their support comes from donations, which can be sent by those interested to Kennedale Community Theatre in the Park, P.O. Box 724, Kennedale, Texas 76060.

Johnson is also one of several participants who had no previous theater experience.

“I’d never been in a play before, but they got me on stage singing. This time I have to sing a solo,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve spoken in front of the state legislature and federal leaders, but this is scaring me to death — but I’m also excited and can’t wait.”

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