FRANKFORT — Community theater provides theater for the community by the community, but it also builds and strengthens relationships within its own borders.
There is a reason theater groups and casts often refer to themselves as "family." The Frankfort-based Bluegrass Theatre Guild is no exception.
BTG has been bringing families and neighbors closer together for 30 years.
On Saturday, it will celebrate that anniversary with an event at First United Methodist Church in Frankfort. The free celebration will feature musical numbers, some performed by original cast members from previous productions.
Guild members, performers, crew and volunteers who have contributed to the group's more than 70 productions will be honored by the governor's office, the Frankfort mayor and the Franklin County judge-executive's office.
One of BTG's founders, Sally Jump, now the Franklin Circuit Court clerk, watched her children grow up in the Guild.
"My husband was involved in productions before we married, and all of our kids have been in them," she says. "We have a granddaughter that's already been in one."
Jump helped found Bluegrass Theatre Guild when the community theater landscape was particularly barren compared to the amount of theater groups in the region today.
The now-defunct Pegasus Playhouse was producing "straight" plays, so the Guild filled a demand by focusing on musicals. That's how Jump, who had majored in theater in college, teamed with Hollis Rosenstein, another co-founder who served as the music director for many productions.
With Jump directing and Rosenstein leading the music, the pair became a signature duo.
"She and I as a production team had a bit of magic together," says Jump, adding that she has directed every musical on her wish list.
"She and I have produced together most of the major musicals that the Guild has done up until the last two years," Jump says. "She is very instrumental with her talents, and our friendship has just been solidified by the Guild.
They pulled off Oliver!, their first collaboration and the Guild's first production, with the help of Carl Smith of Kentucky State University. It filled a several-hundred-capacity room at KSU's Bradford Hall, one of many venues the Guild would use.
Not having a dedicated theater space has been one of the challenges of BTG.
"We have performed in every high school in the county; we've performed a lot of our larger shows at KSU as well as the Grand Theatre," Jump says. "We've also done some shows in the elementary schools and different venues around town."
In the beginning, finding a venue was easy. But now that there are more performing groups in the region, "we have to book way far in advance," Jump says.
She says there have been talks through the years about finding a dedicated space, but nothing has come together. "It's always been a dream, but it's been a very difficult thing being in the capital city, to raise the money for that kind of thing," she says.
Jump hopes Saturday's celebration will invigorate the community and inspire more people to join the Guild.
"I hope this might spark some people to remember how important the arts are in schools and in the community," says Jump. "It takes a lot of work, but it's just so rewarding."
IF YOU GO
'Play It Forward,' Bluegrass Theatre Guild's 30th anniversary celebration
What: Music, performances and more to celebrate the troupe's anniversary. An announcement of the 2014 season will be made.
When: Nov. 2. Social time 7 p.m., program at 7:30.
Where: First Methodist Church's Asbury Hall, 211 Washington St., Frankfort
Learn more: Bluegrasstheatreguild.com
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.