Junior Civics: Tales from the Plays and Musicals

The Logansport Junior Civics is an organization that performs plays and musicals for children and teenagers to take part in
LHS juniors Cameron Hunnicutt and Alex Geisler perform during JCTs most recent dinner theatre show, Who Poisoned His Meatball?
LHS juniors Cameron Hunnicutt and Alex Geisler perform during JCT’s most recent dinner theatre show, “Who Poisoned His Meatball?”
Samantha Hunnicutt

The Junior Civic Theatre in Logansport was established in 1961.  Their JCT Facebook page defines the organization as “Promoting and encouraging theatrical arts programming for young people in the Logansport Indiana area.” JCT is open for students from Cass County schools to participate in. The summer musicals are usually held in McHale Performing Arts Center while the Christmas shows are usually held at the State Theater.  

Samantha Hunnicutt is the Executive Director of the JCT. As a volunteer, Hunnicutt stays motivated because she enjoys the people she works with. 

“We work well together and have lots of fun,” Hunnicutt said. “It is fun to watch the kids grow over the years. My three children are still very involved in JCT, and I love watching them on stage. I also love watching the shows come together every year.”

She went on to explain the amount of work it takes for everything to come together.

“It takes about a year for us to get a musical together,” Hunnicutt said. “We start with picking a show in June. We have to get the copyrights to the show before we can tell the community what we have decided to do. We decide in October who we would like to invite to direct our next show. We ask them and hope we get an answer back in November.”

Once a production team is in place, the planning can begin.

LHS Graduated Maggie Fincher poses with a fan and fellow “Beauty in the Beast” castmate. Fincher played Bell in the JCTsummer of 2022 production.

“Then, we start right after New Year’s with production meetings and setting up audition dates, “Hunnicutt said. “We have production meetings every month until the show in July. We try to have auditions in early May and start practices in late May. We have practices three to four days a week from late May till the show in late July.”  

Kelsey Thomas is a senior who has participated in several musicals in the past. 

“I have been involved in acting with JCT on and off starting in the third grade,” Thomas said. “I have been in five productions in total. My favorite play was ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ The practices had such a great atmosphere, and I became close to so many people that I otherwise wouldn’t have become close with. The show itself is so fun and cute, and I loved playing the role of Mrs. Potts.”

Thomas talked about her friends and her journey of making friends and meeting people through JCT. 

“I would absolutely recommend my friends join JCT,” Thomas said. “But luckily, I don’t have to since most of them are already in it. It is definitely a commitment, but it’s so worth it when you consider the friends you make and the experience you get.”

According to Thoams, not everything went quite as planned when she was in “Beauty and the Beast.”

“During a dress rehearsal, we were running the final fight scene of ‘Beauty and the Beast, and my character (Mrs. Potts) was supposed to ‘throw a punch’ at LeFou, played by Payton Mucker,” Thomas said. “I went to fake punch him but accidentally punched him for real. His glasses broke into multiple pieces and flew into the audience, and he was left with a black eye for the entire show weekend.”

Thomas shared another funny experience. 

“As Mrs. Potts, I had to wear this ridiculously large costume that was shaped like a teapot,” Thomas said. “During one of the scenes in Act 1, there’s a very narrow staircase that Lumiere (Austin Brooke), Cogsworth (Liam Gay), and I had to go up and down fairly quickly. On what I believe was the last show, I got stuck going down the stairs, and the characters behind me all slammed into me. I had to get my costume unstuck and pretend like nothing happened, but Cogsworth, aka Liam, broke character and started dying of laughter. It took everything I had to hold myself together, but I eventually broke as well. Breaking character seems to be a common occurrence on Sunday afternoon shows as we’re all pretty exhausted.”

I went to fake punch him but accidentally punched him for real. His glasses broke into multiple pieces and flew into the audience, and he was left with a black eye for the entire show weekend.

— Senior Kelsey Thomas

Deborah Swartzell is a board member for JCT. She explained about the experiences she has had while being a volunteer.

“It takes lots of volunteers and time to put a play together,” Swartzell said. “After we finish one musical, we begin to work on the next musical. Dinner theaters and our Christmas shows have a shorter time frame, so it is very busy. It takes a lot of dedication by the actors as well as the volunteers.”

Swartzell has seen continued growth in her time as a volunteer.

“I have been involved with Junior Civic in some capacity for 30 years when my daughter started when she was three,” Swartzell said. “I have seen lots of productions.  Every time I think this was our best one, the next year blows me away. If I had to choose I would say ‘Mary Poppins’ or ‘Beauty and the Beast.’”

Swartell discussed what has kept her motivated for years as a volunteer.

“We work well together and have lots of fun,” Swartzell said. “It is fun to watch the kids grow over the years. Seeing the final production whether it is a big musical, dinner theater, or Christmas production. The final product makes the time given so rewarding.”

This summer, JCT will be performing the musical “Newsies.”

“The dates of the musical will be July 19, 20, & 21,” Swartzell said. “This is an old musical that is not well known. It will be a great experience to watch the actors and actresses of Cass County put this musical into action. We have some really talented kids.”

Obie Martin, a recently appointed member of the board, talked about his experience and his favorite musical.

The cast of “Murder Can Be Habit-Forming” pose for a picture for the 2022 dinner theatre show. (Samantha Hunnicutt)

“Last year was my first summer production as a board member, so “The Sound of Music” would have to be the answer, right?” Martin said. “I’ve been watching them for years, though, because I’ve always had at least one kid involved. “The Sound of Music” would still be my answer. Just an amazing show.” 

Martin went on to explain why he is involved with JCT.

“The main reason is the value that the JCT organization provides the community,” Martin said. “It gives kids an outlet to be creative and try new things. It gives them a goal and shows them that through lots of hard work, they can do amazing things. It also provides a source of entertainment to the community. These are productions that are very well done by talented students. It also helps that the people involved are all there for the best reasons and genuinely fun to be around,”

As an audience member, Martin did not understand what goes into getting a musical to stage.

“I used to just sit in the audience and enjoy without knowing everything it took to get this Herculean task accomplished, but being on the board has given me a new appreciation for all the hard work the volunteers and kids put into the show,” Martin said.

Marissa Schoenradt, a freshman, has been involved with JCT for five years. Her favorite role was playing Tessie in “Annie,” getting to dance on a table during the show.

“I would recommend it to another person because you learn how to memorize lines, music, and blocking, but also you meet friends and have long-lasting memories.” Schoenradt said.

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