The Jewel Box Theater takes over the former home’s razing and continues

  • The old Jewel Box Theater was razed on October 25.
  • The theater troupe had moved out of the building two years ago.
  • Jewel Box Theater is now in the former Trinity School building on the same property.

On a gloomy autumn morning, a group of directors, actors and supporters of the Jewel Box Theater became the audience for an outdoor drama.

The group gathered early Oct. 25 to watch a Midwest Wrecking crew demolish the theater’s former longtime home, a familiar pink stone building on the property of Oklahoma’s First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). City, 3700 N Walker.

Chuck Tweed, who served as Jewel Box Theater’s production manager for more than 40 years before retiring in January 2019, led the emotional rally, ensuring that the demolition of the old Jewel Box was accompanied by greater fanfare than the September 26 surprise shave. the distinctive egg-shaped white dome of the historic church building.

“We’re saddened by the loss of the old building. We’ve been saddened every time we’ve moved…but it was exciting to do something new,” said Deborah Franklin, who was recently named the new co-CEO. from the Jewel Box Theatre. , with her husband, Richard Lemin.

“Theater is alive and well…and we’re truly honored to now be the people taking charge and pushing it forward.”

Brian C. Stockton, right, and Morgan Brown rehearse Jewel Box Theater's new production of

Where is the Jewel Box Theater’s new home?

OKC’s oldest community theater, Jewel Box is a ministry of First Christian-Oklahoma City. Like the congregation, the theater moved a short distance two years ago to the former Trinity School building on church property at NW 37 and Walker Avenue.

“They had a very large what we jokingly called a gymnasium: it was basically a gymnasium for kids, but at one end they had this very small performance stage. When the congregation moved in, they took the south end for the sanctuary, and the north end is now basically the Jewel Box Theater,” Lemin said.

“We’ve got about 140 seats in a push – it’s not (in) the round like the old one was – but we’ve had about a season and a half, almost two seasons in there since we moved.”

What’s next at the Jewel Box Theater?

Now in its off season, the Jewel Box is hosting a few shows from other producers in its performance space at 321 NW 36 Street.

For Halloween weekend, Derek Kenney, the theatre’s former artistic director and production manager, is leading an independent production of Oscar Wilde’s dark and sexy tale “Salomé” with performances continuing at 7:30 p.m. on October 29 and at 2:30 p.m. on October 30. at the Jewel Box Theatre.

C&R Home Entertainment will stage the play “FAT Don’t Crack,” written and directed by Clarence Williams Jr., at 7 p.m. on November 4 and 5 at the Jewel Box.

And the Jewel Box and First Christian-Oklahoma City will collaborate on “A Christmas Cabaret” from December 16-18 at the theater.

Deborah Franklin and Richard Lemin were recently named co-general managers of the Jewel Box Theater, Oklahoma City's oldest community theater.

When will Jewel Box Theater launch its 65th season?

The Jewel Box dropped the curtain on its 64th season in August with Don Zolidis’ comedy “An Unspeakable Triumph of Supreme Brilliance,” which bows with its annual Gem Awards on October 1.

The nonprofit community theater is shifting from its traditional fall-to-spring model to a January-October schedule for its 65th season, which kicks off with the Feb. 2-19 production of “A Company of Wayward Saints.” Lemin will direct the 1966 comedy by George Herman, with auditions scheduled for November 5 and 6 and rehearsals starting in January.

“For Jewel Box, it’s really hard to try to repeat a show over the Thanksgiving holiday, then get the show started, then finish it before the Christmas holiday starts. … And it’s hard to compete. because there’s so much going on during the holiday season,” Lemin said.

“So we’re going to take November-December as the off-season to get the theater back in shape and start planning for the next season.”

Brian C. Stockton, left, and Morgan Brown rehearse Jewel Box Theater's new production

What are the shows in the 65th season of Jewel Box?

After “A Company of Wayward Saints,” Jewel Box will continue its 65th season from March 16 to April 2 with Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” adapted and directed by Holly McNatt, originally slated as the season opener.

The 2023 season will continue May 11-28 with Quiara Alegría Hudes, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for drama “Water by the Spoonful,” directed by Isaiah J. Williams; June 29-July 16 with Jaston Williams, Oklahoman Joe Sears and Ed Howard’s “Red, White and Tuna” comedy trio, led by Adrienne Pierce with help from Doobie Potter; and August 3-20 with Lucas Hnath’s empowering track “The Christians,” directed by Kenney.

The 65th season will conclude October 5-22 with Alfred Uhry’s 1997 Tony Award-winning play, “Ballyhoo’s Last Night”, directed by Jamie Brewster.

Richard Lemin and Helen Hoepfner pose for a publicity photo for the 2008 Jewel Box Theater production "Lend me a tenor."

What are the new general managers’ plans for the Jewel Box?

After leading the company for two years, Kenney left the Jewel Box in September to become the Lyric Theatre’s new box office manager. So Franklin and Lemin, who have been married for 36 years, only recently stepped in as co-CEOs of the Jewel Box.

“Jewel Box’s history and legacy is as community theater, and we’ve been asked to continue to do so. And that’s what we plan to do…and we want to be the best community theater we can be” , said Lemin.

“We want to have actors and directors, we want to have playwrights, we want to have people who want to use their technical skills. … We basically see it as a place for talent development. Hopefully if they stay here in Oklahoma City, they’ll continue to work with us. And if they continue, we’ll be happy to say, ‘Hey, they debuted at the Jewel Box Theatre.'”

He and Franklin have a history with the Jewel Box that dates back decades: They’ve worked in community theater since 1983, when Lemin directed and Franklin starred in Neil Simon’s “The Star Spangled Girl.”

Left to right, actors David Patterson, Deborah Franklin and Chip Chappelle pose for a publicity photo for "The Good Doctor," a Jewel Box Theater production, in Oklahoma City on February 12, 2018.

The couple directed, performed and/or wrote 35 productions there. Franklin even directed the last show in the newly demolished old Jewel Box Theater building: a late 2019 production of Sandra Fenichel Asher’s comedy “Little Old Ladies in Tennis Shoes.”

“We’ve always had really positive experiences at the Jewel Box: it’s a real community theater, and it’s always been a great place to work. Every time you came back to direct or play there, it was just like you’re coming home to theater,” Franklin said.

“We hadn’t anticipated the opportunity to run the theatre; it ended up being a really good time for us. Richard and I are both public school educators, and we’ve both retired last spring. … So we applied, and we’re really excited to be here, because hopefully what we can do is bridge the past and the future.”

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