Cast, crew recall matriarch of community theater

More than 35 years ago, Mary Snead Boger spearheaded a campaign to preserve Cabarrus County's 1878 Victorian courthouse in downtown Concord.

With help from Historic Cabarrus, she and others joined forces to produce a Chautauqua-style program featuring local talent in the courthouse. After a sold-out inaugural season, Boger transformed the effort into the Old Courthouse Theatre Company and became its artistic director.

Praised for playing an integral role in bringing cultural arts to Cabarrus County, the long-time Concord resident died last month at Carolina House of Chapel Hill. She was 90.

The exhibit, "35 Years of the Old Courthouse Theatre," is a joint-effort of the Historic Cabarrus Association and Old Courthouse Theatre. The collection of costumes, props, playbills and photographs commemorates the community theater troupe's award-winning history, as well as its founder. It opened June 14 and will be on display through Sept. 2 at The Concord Museum in downtown Concord.

In 1991, former Concord resident Phillip Taylor saw an ad for an audition for "You Can't Take It With You." Then 36, he had not performed on stage since fifth grade, but always maintained the fantasy.

"So, after changing my mind several times, I worked up the courage to go," said Taylor. "I nervously auditioned and was cast in a small part - I was on stage for one minute and fifty-eight seconds."

An electrician by trade, he began working backstage, constructing sets and working with the light designer. His résumé with OCT includes acting in nearly 20 plays and serving on the board of directors. He has received multiple OCT awards for acting, directing and working backstage.

Taylor said he and others strive to live up to Boger's award-winning traditions.

"The most memorable award I received was when the board of directors voted to give me the Mary Snead Boger Lifetime Achievement award," he said. "That's the one that is really special."

Taylor met Boger in 1991 while building a set for OCT. Throughout several interactions with Boger, Taylor said the strength of her conviction, her reverence and her love for theater came through loud and clear.

"One of her many sayings, 'Professional theater has nothing to do with getting paid,' let you know that she took theater seriously," said Taylor. "The spirit of Mary Snead Boger lives on at OCT. She wanted a theater that people of Concord and Cabarrus County could be proud of, and they can be."

Kim Baysinger, has been involved with OCT for 17 years and has been in 17 shows as an actor/singer. The past board member helps with costume design and construction and is a member of the Backstage Committee and chairs the Programming Committee. She has lived in Concord with her husband, Will, for about 10 years.

"We moved to Cabarrus in order to be heavily involved in Old Courthouse Theatre off stage," she said. "We met and married at OCT and knew it was going to be a huge part of our future."

Baysinger said Boger's vision to bring quality community theater to Cabarrus County has affected countless lives, from those sitting in the seats to those behind the curtain.

"I wonder if Mary ever sensed the breadth of the impact her vision," said Baysinger. "It's an amazing legacy."

Mike Curtis, a 26-year Concord resident, has been with Old Courthouse Theatre since 2009 and has been involved in 20 shows. The board member acts, helps with lights, sound and set building, and also serves on the marketing committee.

In high school, he played Jacob Marley in a version of "A Christmas Carol."

"Mrs. Boger came to see it," he said. "After the play ended and...she came over to me and complimented me on how I had done and asked that I come audition for Old Courthouse Theatre. At the time I knew what an honor that was, but being a teenager, I failed to follow through on her offer."

He never got to meet Boger again, but 20 years later, he finally auditioned at Old Courthouse Theatre.

"And I have been here ever since," he said. "I regret not having taken Mrs. Boger up on her offer, and all these years, I missed being a part of the rich history of Old Courthouse Theatre."

Curtis said the exhibit is just a taste of the time, effort, love, laughs, sweat, blood and tears that people have given over the last three decades.

"Human civilization has always had a need and want to tell stories," he said. "Whether comedies or dramas, it is in our DNA and souls to perform and watch theater. This is just our little corner of that history of story telling."