The southside’s theater scene takes center stage this summer

By Alisa Advani | Photography by Josh Marshall

Bringing classic plays and eclectic performances to stages everywhere, community theaters enrich the lives of those they entertain, as well as of those who produce the art for the stage. Here, a glimpse behind the curtains of two southside theater companies, along with an opportunity to get to know the people running the shows.

Our Town Players

Under the leadership of Mike and Debbie Jones and James and Dana Marietta, Our Town Players enters its 19th year of service to the city of Franklin. A brainchild of Franklin resident Lynn Shuetz, the community theater company has steadily built a reputation for itself since its initial 1995 production of “Our Town.

The self-funded company exists only because of the efforts and commitments of its volunteers. Mike Jones began his theater career in the early ’90s, when his church produced “A Christmas Carol.” No one knew the story as well as he did, he says, “so I was the logical choice to play Ebenezer Scrooge. Since then, I have played Scrooge or Jacob Marley in numerous plays and musicals in theaters around Indianapolis.”

For the theater company, Jones acts, directs and designs and constructs sets, in addition to serving on the group’s board of directors. Jones and his wife, Debbie, who serves as acting president of the board, have a combined 36 years of experience with the company.

Dana Marietta came to Our Town Players about four years ago, when her daughter first tried out for a part in “Peter Pan.” Dana and her husband, James, attended the tryouts to watch but instead quickly found themselves on stage. “The directors invited my husband and I to try out, as well,” Dana recalls. The entire family was cast “as the Indian family. They were small parts, but it was lots of fun for all of us.”   After some time off from their initial production together, Dana and her family were again cast for a performance, this time of “Little Women.” Acting for the Mariettas is now “a family activity for us, and we enjoy it,” Dana says. Both Dana and James serve on the board of directors, which has afforded them the chance to see firsthand the intensive planning that goes into each show.

Linda Morse, who helps as chairwoman for the company’s selection committee, loves to visualize what plays will be like on stage as she plans each season. When the board plans, she explains, it not only takes into account the mechanics of the show but also its impact on the community. “I think theater is so important,” Morse says. “The theater is a family. Arts should be a part of every community.”

Anyone can audition for one of the two adult plays or the youth-centered Rising Star summer show produced annually by the company. And the good news is that not everyone needs to have a starring role. “There is a place for everyone,” Morse says. “If you aren’t comfortable on stage, you can help backstage. It (community theater) is a great thing for people of all ages.”

Established: 1995

Performances per year: Three (Two plays that are for any age group of actors, one Rising Star production for actors 18 and younger.)

Location: Franklin Active Adults Center, 160 E. Adams St., Franklin

On June 25 to 27 and Aug. 1 to 3, the theater company will produce “Charlotte’s Web,” adapted by Joseph Robinette from E.B. White’s classic tale and under the direction of James and Dana Marietta. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday shows are at 2 p.m. For more information, visit

Buck Creek Players

As the only community theater in Franklin Township, Buck Creek Players fills a creative space within this pocket of the city. The desire to preserve the arts “is precisely why we do what we do without getting a paycheck,” says Scott Robinson, director of publicity and marketing and longtime volunteer for Buck Creek Players. “We are passionate about the arts, and we want to be able to share that passion with others.”

Like many other performers, Robinson discovered the stage at a young age. In second grade, his school cast him in the leading role of a play, and he fell in love with acting. “Who knew at that time that it would grow into a lifelong passion?” he says. “I performed in my first community theater production of ‘Oliver’ in the fall of 1984, and then I was cast the following summer at Buck Creek Players in “Tom Sawyer.” I was 10 years old.”

Buck Creek got its start in 1973 when the Franklin Township Civic League and a group of local residents formed a committee they called the “Four C’s Theatre.” A year later, the name was changed, and the Buck Creek group formalized into a not-for-profit organization. Over the four decades since, the company has moved into its permanent home on Southeastern Avenue, where it produces plays that focus on the many aspects of its mission statement: to provide educational and lifelong learning opportunities; to produce theater that involves, engages, reflects and nourishes the community; and to balance artistic vision and expression with financial capacity and stability, among others.

During Robinson’s 30 years with this theater group, he has learned the best recipe for theatrical success involves hard work, community and family. “The theater offers the community the opportunity to do something different and out of the ordinary with its spare time, both as audience members and those volunteering on stage and behind the scenes,” he says. “The theater community is a social one. It is a hardworking and fun one. Overall, the feeling here is one of family.”

Established: 1973

Performances per year: Six

Location: Buck Creek Playhouse, 11150 Southeastern Ave., Indianapolis

This summer, Buck Creek Players presents “Carrie: The Musical,” directed by D. Scott Robinson, on June 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 8 p.m., and June 1, 8 and 15 at 2:30 p.m., and Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast Junior,” directed by Phyllis Ann Arthur, on Aug. 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 3 and 10 at 2:30 p.m. For more information, visit