There was a casting call.
It was posted to Facebook and drew an overwhelming response.
The post was seeking theater enthusiasts interested in forming a community group of actors and thespians — specifically from the Wesley Chapel area, but also from surrounding Pasco County.
And after more than 300 likes and comments, the Wesley Chapel Theater Group (WCTG) was formed, as a nonprofit 501(c)3 that was enthusiastically ready to bring the arts to the small stages — to willing audiences.
“(The post) blew up like crazy,” said Rachael Gandy-Naylor, WCTG’s artistic director. “We’ve been extremely lucky that every time we call out for auditions, we get repeats, but we get new people, too. We’re growing and we want to do bigger shows and even musicals, which always calls for a more diverse cast.
“Everyone is local,” she added. “We had a lot of people that responded, and their kids are off to school, maybe empty-nesters, looking for something to do and probably hadn’t stepped on stage in 10 to 15 years.
“Their passion is to get back to it and those are who gravitated toward us — they are passionate about community theater and performing arts,’’ she said.
Now, more than two years later, the acting troupe has six board members and a steady group of around 20 volunteers who perform and help behind-the-scenes for shows.
So far, all the performances have been in Wesley Chapel, at venues including Treble Makers Dueling Piano Bar & Restaurant, Side Splitters at the Grove, Avalon Park, the KRATE and The Center for the Arts Wesley Chapel.
Their biggest performances were from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, at the Center for The Arts, where they put on “Steel Magnolias” on a black box stage. The setting allowed for small, but intimate showings, which all sold out.
The group is open to anyone over 18, even if they haven’t set foot on a stage since high school/college or they’re newcomers to acting.
There is one requirement: They must be passionate about theater.
“This is absolutely for the love of the theater,” Gandy-Naylor said. “Those who have been here since Day One bring passion and knowledge from the past shows, and as much as we become a family during our shows, we’re still very inviting. We want more people to come out and be a part of this. Anyone new that comes in is automatically welcomed into that family, as we try very hard not to be cliquish.”
The group’s inviting attitude is as welcoming as a round of applause and very beneficial to the group.
No one is paid for their work or services. As members of a nonprofit organization, they volunteer their time, efforts and talents for the love of putting on a great show. Proceeds from shows are put right back into the group for more performances, as well as props, costumes and sets.
They also build or make their own sets, props and costumes. They use items they find in bargain bins, as well as roundup stuff members have in their homes.
“Everyone who has volunteered for our shows, you can just see the passion radiating off them,” Gandy-Naylor said. “There are a lot of late nights and lots of rehearsing, and we can be practicing and preparing until midnight, but everyone buckles up and gets through it with a smile on their faces.”
Being a part of WCTG is not about getting paid for performances. Many members see it as a craft, one to hone. It is, also, just plain fun to perform in front of family, friends and the community.
“We are not getting paid or anything like that, but I take great pride in putting on a great show,” member and actor Samantha Sacasa said. “That I can perform in front of people who appreciate and love the theater, that’s what it’s all about.
“I’m a little nervous to perform in front of so many people, but also very excited to do that and be a part of this group.”
Fellow member and actor, Samantha Grahn, agrees.
“It’s such a rush,” Grahn said. “They say the theater bug can itch, and I was waiting for it to scratch it and this group was it. It was nostalgic, in a way, because I remember you just click with people like this, that you share the same love of the theater.
“It’s a camaraderie and a new set of friends.”
Moving forward, WCTG is looking for a permanent home for performances, either at the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High or the Pasco-Hernando State College Instructional Performing Arts Center at Cypress Creek High, the latter of which will host the groups Masquerade Gala as a fundraising event.
Though the group will continue to produce and perform for the community, with people from the community.
All of whom are looking for that curtain call.
“It’s all very exciting, especially when you’re into theater and you want to get back out on stage and interact,” Grahn said. “I like entertaining people, I like that it’s close to home, and it’s great to get back with people who share your passion for the arts.
“Now, I just tell them, ‘What can I do?!’ ‘Get me involved!’ and anyone can do that with our group.”
Wesley Chapel Theater Group
Details: After a Facebook post in Summer 2021 received more than 300 likes and comments, the Wesley Chapel Theater Group (WCTG) was created, becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has been performing skits, acts and plays all over Wesley Chapel, such as at Treble Makers, the KRATE at the Grove and the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel. Performers and theater enthusiasts over 18 are welcome to join, even if they haven’t set foot on a stage since high school/college or it’s their first time, looking to perform.
Upcoming shows: Wesley Chapel Theater Group’s Masquerade Gala: Annual Fundraising Benefit – Nov. 4, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Pasco-Hernando State College Instructional Performing Arts Center, 8657 Old Pasco Road, in Wesley Chapel
Every Christmas Story Ever Told and then Some by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald, John K. Alvarez – Dec. 15 to Dec. 17, Woman’s Club of Zephyrhills, 38545 Fifth Ave.
Info: Visit WesleyChapelTheaterGroup.org or the group’s Facebook page.
Published October 18, 2023