Tyler Civic Theatre Center Managing Director DeAnna Hargrove sits for a photo in the 350-seat Braithwaite Theatre in June as youth rehearse a summer musical production.

Danny Mogle


Editor’s Note: This Q&A is the latest in a regular series of Five Questions features with people shaping East Texas’ past, present and future.

DeAnna Hargrove is the managing director of the Tyler Civic Theatre Center, which stages plays and holds acting workshops in two buildings overlooking the Tyler Rose Garden.

Hargrove works with the center’s board to create opportunities for those who want to be a part of and to experience live theater in East Texas.

What is your first experience that left you excited about being in theater?

I was exposed to theater as a toddler, stepped onto the stage at 6, and was awed at 11 when my father took me to Granny’s Dinner Theatre House in Dallas for a production of “Brigadoon.”

My high school choral director was a show choir master-in-the-making, however.

Mark Sumner, now directing at Berkeley, took a sweepstakes-winning group of 72, including chaperones, overseas to perform in three venues and to hear amazing voices in another three. That experience was topped off with a trip to the Palladium Theatre in London to see Yul Brynner in “The King and I.” For me, that was the moment.

Ten years later I founded a theater organization in South Dallas’ Oak Cliff. Long story short, I wanted to give latchkey kids in my ethnically diverse community an opportunity to be invigorated by the performing arts by reaching them in the parks. I couldn’t have done it without a supportive husband and a lot of prayer.

Then, fast-forward another 10 years, and I landed in Tyler’s Rose Garden. It was here that I was able to take root and bloom.

In what ways have you been affiliated with Tyler Civic Theatre Center over the years?

In the spring of 2000, I was blessed to become TCTC’s education director to assist in nurturing the growing Acting Conservatory and S.T.A.R. (Summer Theatre Art Review) camps for youths offered by TCTC’s Rogers Children’s Theatre.

In three short years, we introduced a season of shows for students and their families and added a third employee. I was part of the teaching team, managed/promoted the programs and directed at least one production annually.

After 10 years, in the fall of 2010, John Woods retired after 20 years of successful leadership as resident director of our Braithwaite (theater) season.

Another esteemed co-worker also resigned after eight years of creative directing on the original Al Gilliam stage.

This left us with a season of nine shows from fall to spring, plus two summer musicals, and only one director. It was then that the board elected to shift me into a mentoring/managing position.

Directing, as well as designing and yes, acting, is still my passion. The majority of time, however, I help to grow our community of talent.

What a privilege to support other aspiring “creatives” to produce fresh and diverse dramatic works to fulfill TCTC’s mission: to entertain, enrich and educate through theater!

What are the challenges of overseeing a busy regional theater?

The challenges are: 1) managing the space, the time and the projects; 2) defining the parameters of community theater without smothering artistic creativity; and 3) if I’m honest, burning bright without burning out.

Supporting, motivating and sometimes protecting such passionate people can be exhausting — but what an honor to work within a “family” of people and on projects that inspire and challenge us to look at ourselves and others with wonder, compassion and a sense of humor!

Tyler Civic Theatre Center is staging the musical “Newsies” in performances that began July 25. Why do you believe this will be a hit with your East Texas audience?

Start with a historical tale of adversity and oppression. Mix in heartfelt melodies and rhythms. Now, throw in the energy of Smith County’s most compelling young triple-threat talents — most of them young men.

Mix them together and surround them with still more art, constructed in the doorways, painted on canvas, choreographed and vocally rehearsed until they’re breathless and try not to get caught up in the enchantment of this unforgettable production.

Ask around about “Mamma Mia!” (the musical the theater staged earlier this summer). This is a summer Tyler theatergoers will not soon forget

What are the priorities of the theater as it moves forward?

TCTC stands firmly on the foundation of its first 70 years. We aspire to continue to earn the support of the community in order to provide our region with quality homegrown entertainment by those who have chosen to do what I choose to do — bloom where we’re planted.

TCTC can make our environment more beautiful by doing our best, being our best and expecting the best of one another.

We want to reflect the people we serve, as theater should do, and reflect upon the world around us as theater must do.

We increasingly endeavor to fulfill our mission. After all, as we often say, “We act on your behalf!”

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