Community theaters have held special place in Lockhart, Caldwell County culture
The Gaslight-Baker Theater is a local source of entertainment in Lockhart and has been for years.
But it’s kind of hard to know what milestone you celebrate for the theater, because it’s worn myriad hats over the years.
Do you celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Baker Theatre in 2020, which would commemorate the structure’s long reign as Lockhart’s erstwhile one-screen movie theater?
Or do you celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Baker being taken over by the community theater in 1998, which gave the building new life by involving local acting enthusiasts who wanted to put on plays that literally took a village?
Or, finally, do you tip your hat to the 10th anniversary of the year the Baker Theatre merged with the Gaslight, an institution that had put on dramatic, more professional productions for years before lending its name to the Gaslight-Baker Theatre in 2008?
There is no wrong answer, but the board of directors is definitely looking ahead to the Baker’s centennial in 2020, and GBT President Tammy Francis is looking for volunteers to join the committee that will determine the ways the noteworthy milestone will be celebrated.
“We welcome community members to join our committee,” said Francis, who got involved with the Gaslight-Baker about eight years ago. “They just have to want to help and have ideas.”
The structure that sits on Main Street across from the Dr. Eugene Clark Public Library and next to Caracara Brewing Company was the Baker Theater until the early 1980s. The playhouse evolved into a one-room cinema that finally shut its doors after several showings of the movie “Christine.”
Eventually, the movie theater evolved into a community theater (reopening with Steel Magnolias in 1998) before eventually becoming what it is today.
“Steve Lawson, as president of the Gaslight Theatre, and Lucy Knight, as president of the Lockhart Community Theatre, realized that both theatres were suffering from many of the same problems and being a united group would eliminate the duplication of many projects and expenses,” Francis said.
“Over a several-month period we were able to convince our respective board members that a merger made sense. It was a very delicate process.”
Francis has been involved in creative endeavors for years as an actor, director, novelist and dancer and once pursued a career in the performing arts professionally. Today, the GBT president leads a number of folks who keep the all-volunteer theater going.
“Having a live theater was one of the things that brought me and my family to Lockhart,” Francis said. “I’m an artsy person. I write. I direct. I act. I dance.
“My family and I tried out and all got parts, and we didn’t look back.”
A number of ideas are already on the table to commemorate the Baker’s opening 100 years ago. There are aspects of history to remember fondly and others to talk about to celebrate how far things have come, Francis said.
“We’ve got people who come in and remember seeing a movie, people who remember having a first date there,” Francis said. “And then we’ve got some stories that are hard to hear, like people who remember having to climb up into the balcony because of segregation. It’s a part of history and we don’t want to hide it, but we want to celebrate that it isn’t that way anymore.”
A likely place for such recognitions to occur would be the theater’s annual gala in 2020, Francis said. The president hoped anyone who’s ever been involved with the GBT could come forward and be recognized at that party.
One thing she’d like to see done: a renovation of the lobby to bring back the charm it had in the 1920s. Francis said she thought the décor currently looked reminiscent of the 1950s.
“It’s a jewel, it just needs updating,” she said.