I grew up in Cleburne, TX. I performed with the drama club at Cleburne High School, witnessed the building of the theatre at the high school (the “Cavern” as we called it) and was the light board operator/designer (and sometimes actor) for some of the Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players first productions. That was the 1980s and live theatre was an oddity in this little country seat 35 miles south of Fort Worth. Flash forward some 25 years or so and JaceSon and Tina Burrus along with Aaron Siler from the Plaza Theatre Company with a show in the abandoned arcade building at the local Putt-Putt. Borrowing risers and chairs from a local church, they produced a show in a small town that already had a well-established community theatre by that time in the Carnegie Players. Many did not understand why they would try it, many more did not think they had a chance for success. Well, they did succeed and were able to have a small space on Main St. to build a small theatre. Reaching their 10th anniversary this past week is quite an accomplishment and their accomplishment has been rewarded.
After a long period of talking, negotiating and planning, they came to an agreement with the Dudley Family Foundation established by Cleburne businessman Howard Dudley who owns the Liberty Event Center. It will become the new home of Plaza Theatre Company. The announcement was made at their 10th annual gala which was held…at the Liberty Event Center. The design for the new performance space will almost double the audience to 300 seats and the official name will be Plaza Theatre Co. at Dudley Hall.
Even though the audience will be much larger, it is still going to be the theater-in-the-round that Plaza is known for so the shows will still be “intimate” with the audience very close to the actors. Everything is expanding including the lobby area, concession area, and especially parking which was always a small problem at their South Main St. location.
Their current show, “Anne of Green Gables,” sold out every performance in the first week of the run. This has actually become the norm for Plaza as of late so the extra capacity will be very welcome to locals and those that travel to Cleburne to see the shows. Plaza Theatre is actually the biggest tourist draw for Cleburne’s historic downtown area. Plaza Director of Operations Aaron Siler and Artistic Director JaceSon Burrus, outlined the plan for the future of the theatre. On June 1st, the Liberty Event Center will close for renovations, for spiffing up and grooming. Hairspray and the rest of the 2017 season will still be performed in their current location and they will continue to operate the Plaza Academy at 221 S. Mill St. The Academy offers dance, acting and other classes for children and teenagers. After the move into the new space is complete, the existing theatre space on Main St. will become Plaza Junior. Tina Burrus, Director of Education for Plaza Theatre Co., has used the Main St. stage or the Cleburne Conference Center to produce a limited run of children’s theatre. Now they can produce children’s shows in Cleburne year round.
The new Plaza will open at its new location early next year with a special event for current season ticket holders so they can pick their ‘new’ seats. From the first show at an arcade at the old Putt-Putt to being an artistic and economic force in Cleburne, Plaza Theatre Co. has been well supported, well respected, and very well recognized. In the past ten years, they have racked up more than a fistful of Column Award nominations and wins and was voted Best Theatre Group in the WFAA-List in 2010. Between the Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players and Plaza Theatre Co., Cleburne, Texas is shaping up to be a live entertainment hub of activity. And that makes this old CHS drama jock very, very happy.