The Brownwood community has a long history of pulling together to accomplish great things. The pioneer spirit so prevalent in the late 19th century has been handed down through the generations, and it continues to permeate our city today.
Key examples include the creation of Lake Brownwood and the recruiting of major employers — along with smaller support businesses — for the Camp Bowie industrial complex. Howard Payne University should be included in any such shortlist. Without these resources, Brownwood could easily have become any other small West Texas county seat with little to distinguish itself beyond quality public schools and good highways.
Such significant infrastructure enhancements allowed the community to enhance commerce and quality of life. Examples are too numerous to mention, because many would be left out. Still, ambitious and creative individuals established businesses to serve the community, while churches and civic organizations produced volunteers to serve their neighbors. Local governments adopted the mindset of helping however possible, and attractions like the Brown County Museum of History, the Depot Civic and Cultural Center, a network of municipal parks and many others opened.
It worked, because its people have always been the community’s greatest resource.
This month, our focus turns to the Lyric Theatre in downtown Brownwood.
Some 15 years ago, a handful of residents saw the potential in a vacant facility that last served as an entertainment venue in 1958. Preliminary studies were completed to make sure restoration would be feasible, and with that assurance, fund-raising began.
At times, the goal looked daunting. It took several years of effort and a few generous gifts before success was certain. Without those large donations, the restoration would still be underway. But hundreds of others have also helped make the Lyric Theatre possible with smaller contributions, and that’s important to remember. This shows that the Lyric is truly a community endeavor, with support from many.
That support must be ongoing. Just because the restoration of the theater was celebrated with a grand reopening in December 2014 doesn’t mean the work is completed. For one thing, construction continues inside the adjacent studio and green room in the former 4 Corners building, as well as in other properties facing Brown Street behind the main structures.
The theater has almost completely transitioned from restoration/construction to operations/maintenance, and here’s where individuals and businesses in the community can continue to make a difference.
The talented people needed to produce the shows continue to offer their time, and make no mistake — the time commitment to stage events like the current musical “Oliver” is huge. Meanwhile, the support of audience members is also vital, as is the backing of those who subscribe to shows as patrons at various contribution levels.
So far, so good. Attendance at the first four performances of “Oliver” has been good, and the reaction of those attending has been overwhelmingly positive. Including the two shows today, four more performances are scheduled through Sunday.
While box office proceeds don’t come close to covering all expenses of running a theater, your attendance is one way to contribute. Opportunities to support your community in such an enjoyable manner are rare.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.