GUNTERSVILLE — The Whole Backstage Theatre in Guntersville recently celebrated 50 years with an elaborate Golden Anniversary Gala.
“This organization is the result of a whole lot of heart, persevering dedication, limitless passion, blood, sweat, and tears and an unrivaled love of the arts and for live theater,” Denton Gillen, president of the Whole Backstage Board of Directors, said. “Tonight we celebrate 50 consecutive seasons as your community theater, and hope to serve you for many more.”
An elegant, immersive experience
Those in attendance were treated to drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the courtyard, which was set up as “The Secret Garden.” The reception rooms featured actors from WBS past who sang to gala attendees as they mingled. A lounge area was set up for guests in the Black Box of the theater. An exquisitely delicious dinner, provided by The Cottage Caterer, was served on beautifully set tables located directly on the theater stage.
Archival photos and props were displayed throughout, as well as a silent auction which benefited the Dot Moore scholarship program, set up in the name and memory of the “Founding Mother” of the Whole Backstage.
“We award this to a qualifying senior from our community each year,” said WBS board member and gala co-Chair Claire Richards.
Guests were treated to more throwback performances throughout the dining portion of the evening, then the real fun began as Memphis-based band, Even Odds, took the stage. Actors, patrons, sponsors and community members alike danced the night away to end a fabulous evening of well-deserved celebration.
A rich history
The Whole Backstage is one of those rare Alabama gems, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that cranks out one fantastic show after another, season over season. While the Whole Backstage might not be the oldest community theater in the region in general, it is the oldest continually operating community theater in North Alabama, which exists solely through the generous support of its patrons and the community.
The WBS began in 1968 as a teen club, a safe space for teenagers after three local youths were killed in a car accident. The club was spearheaded by the late Mrs. Moore, a local teacher at the time, and the first productions were born from an effort to provide character-building activities for young people in the area.
“As Dot explained it, it was not until 1973 that the adults saw how much fun was going on and the grownups started getting into the act,” said director and immediate past board president Johnny Brewer. “It was then that the Whole Backstage was formed.”
In 1985, the theater was incorporated as a tax-exempt corporation. Each year since, the Whole Backstage has produced main stage productions, youth productions and theater workshops, while continuing to remain active in sponsoring community events. Participants and audiences come not just from Marshall County, but from all over North Alabama.
Fresh off summer productions of Into the Woods and The Lion King, Jr., a youth production, the 2023-2024 season at the Whole Backstage will kick off this fall with Bright Star, a number from which was performed by the cast at the anniversary gala. The rest of the WBS’ 50th season is as follows:
- A Tuna Christmas, (winter fundraiser)
- Elf, Jr. the Musical, youth production (winter fundraiser)
- The Lion in Winter, winter 2024 (regular season)
- The Savannah Sipping Society, spring 2024 (regular season)
- Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, summer 2024 (regular season
The Whole Backstage is at 1120 Rayburn Ave./Dot Moore Way, in Guntersville’s “old Rock School.” The locally sourced stone building, a 1930s era schoolhouse that many locals can still remember attending as children, is listed on the historic registry in the Cultural District of Guntersville.