In 1984, a small band of artists conspired to save the 1910 courthouse in the center of Globe, and turn it into the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts .
On the third floor of that grand old building at 101 N. Broad St., art comes to life in the heart of the Copper Cities Community Players.
“We’re a community theater group,” says Diana Montgomery. She’s been running the back office for the past twenty-some years. “We put on plays. All the money that we raise goes back into the third floor.”
Players come from all walks of life. Miners and mothers, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer. By night they become actors and singers, set designers, costume makers, directors, producers – even, if needed, pastie bakers.
“We are all volunteers,” says Diana. “All of the actors, all of the sound people, the light people, the behind-the-stage people, the costume people, the makeup people, everybody is a volunteer.”
The crew shares a clear sense of purpose: to restore the third floor, do good theater and encourage people from all walks of life to engage with the arts.
In 1982, the Players incorporated and made an agreement with CVCA to restore the third floor and put on plays there.
From 1982 to 1990, before the third floor was ready to be used, they put on shows in the YMCA, schools, clubs, and churches around town.
Plays are selected by the Player board, which is also responsible for setting the budget and choosing the director. The current board president is G. Willy Thomas. The members include Diana Montgomery, Dave Rogers, Linda Gustafson, Margaret Brantley, Paul Tunis, Jason Marr and Jo Nell Brantley. Willy and Jason also serve on the CVCA board, representing the Players.
All board members are involved in every production. Nobody is “at large.”
“I’m just an actor,” says Jo Nell Brantley. Dave Rogers disagrees.
“If there’s anything that has anything to do with the theater, she’s done it,” he says. “She produces, directs, does hair…”
As a kid, Jo Nell wrote plays, and in fourth grade, when Mr. Decker started musical theater at the high school, shows like Li’l Abner and Bye-bye Birdie, Jo Nell says she “just fell in love with it.”
Jo Nell’s been an active member of the Players, CVCA, and the Downtown Association for over three decades. She is one of the people who saw both the value in preserving history and the need for live theater in a small town.
“Hundreds of people have bought into that idea,” says Jo Nell. “Talented, intelligent people that work really hard to make a dream come true.”
Restore the Third Floor
“Everything we do gets approved by the Center,” Jo Nell explains, noting that the aim of CVCA is not to modernize the building but “to bring it back.”
To get the third floor ready for theater, the Players made a list of the projects that needed to be done.
“We put them into categories – easy, medium, and big,” Jo Nell explains. “Then people just started taking things on.”
First, they cleared the courthouse. Then they built a stage. Next, they got some lighting and borrowed chairs.
In 1986, the Players presented Twain by the Tail in the newly restored Old Courthouse Theater. The fire marshal shut it down.
In early 1987, they began raising money for a fire escape and sprinkler system, and in 1990, returned to the third floor.
The first Christmas show was performed in 1992, with rented tuxedos and no heat.
“A hundred people came bundled in coats and paid to see the show,” Jo Nell remembers, still surprised. “We used the money to buy heaters for the third floor and redo the gas lines.”
Electrical has been an ongoing problem.
When long fluorescent lights crashed down from a rotting ceiling and exploded onto tables of borrowed china, the Governor’s Room became a priority.
Then there was the elevator.
For decades the third floor was not accessible to many who could not climb the stairs; limiting access and use of the floor. It was Kip Culver, the Center Director from 2006 -2015 who spearheaded the efforts spanning ten years to add an elevator to the Center.
“It was such a project!” Diana remembers how the community came together in 2015, behind Kip Culver’s leadership, to install the elevator.
“And it wasn’t just the Players,” she continues. “It was the entire Center, the community… everybody came together for the elevator.”
Diana’s mother loved the theater, too, but couldn’t navigate the stairs to attend. Diana says, “Having her be able to use the elevator and see a couple of productions before she passed away was special.”
Do Good Theater.
Every year, the Players produce spring, fall, and Christmas programs. The holiday program has become an annual event for many Globe residents, and more than 50 people help put it on.
“We try to put on good shows,” says Dave. He helps out with sound and sets, and also directs. Comedies are popular, including plays by Noel Coward and Neil Simon.
“Everyone has fun doing it,” he says, “and the audience has fun coming out to see the show.”
There is one production that stands out over the years.
Justa Cafe, an original musical, tells the tale of a small town tearing down old buildings to keep up with the new. Centered around the life of the real Justa Cafe (now the Copper Bistro), it was written by Kip Culver with original songs by local attorney, Tom Thompson and music by J.B Wright. The stories and inspiration for the script came from many locals who both contributed to the script and production. First written and performed in 2007, it was brought back in 2015 to honor the memory of Kip Culver.
Encourage people from all walks of life to engage with the arts.
Janet Trimble, one of the newest Players, is a part-time bookkeeper and “Got Barre” instructor. Raised on an Air Force base, she learned early that if she wanted to “be happy with where she was at,” she had to put forth some effort.
Seeking guitar lessons, she ran into Linda Gustafson, who invited her to play at the Christmas show.
Janet wasn’t sure, “Well, I can’t really play… or sing.”
“Of course you can,” Linda responded. “Just come on and do it.”
“And because she said I could, I did,” says Janet. “It was a wonderful experience.”
At 46, Gina Miranda thought she was too “old and inexperienced” for the Players, but acting was something she had always wanted to do. When her son was old enough to stay home alone, she auditioned for The Addams Family, and landed a role – as an ancestor.
“I was getting home late. I still had to get up to go to work the next day. My eyes were bloodshot. I was so tired, but I had a smile on my face the whole time because I just loved it.”
She’s been in almost every production since. In 2015, she sang her first solo in 30 years.
People from the Center, she’s noticed, are involved with almost anything that gets done in this town. “People will just show up and roll up their sleeves and help out,” she says.
It’s one of the things Janet likes about a small town. “If you do something, you can make a difference.”
Diana Montgomery met Jo Nell Brantley at work.
“She is a force to be reckoned with,” Diana says of Jo Nell, office manager of a downtown law firm, “and she wants to get people involved in things.”
“Come on, you’ll have fun,” Jo Nell would say. Then say again.
Diana had always found it energizing and exciting to be around the theater.
“Okay,” she says, “let’s give it a shot.”
It’s been the opening line to many great experiences.
“You get sucked in,” Diana says. “Because it is fun. And what makes it fun is the people that are involved in it.”
Nancy Mackay, a retired mining engineer, is one of those people. Another longtime member of both CVCA and the Players, she holds the role of stage manager. From opening night on, she runs the show.
As a little tradition, on the last night, she and her assistant try to “screw up” the action on stage, just to see how the actors will respond. A big bug in a basket of fruit, dirty pictures on playing cards.
“Over the years, we’ve done lots of things,” Nancy recalls with a smile. “It was fun.”
Not everyone enjoyed the onstage antics. One father was quite upset about a scene in Moon Over Buffalo.
A young couple want to kiss, and almost get there, when a telephone rings and interrupts them.
“Let’s not ring the phone for a while,” Nancy decided, with her assistant.
In the early eighties, Nancy moved to Globe to work as a mining engineer.
“At first, I didn’t much care for it,” she recalls. Then she joined CVCA, and then she joined the Players. “Once I got involved with these people, all these different people, I liked it more. I knew more people.”
“It’s people from all walks of life,” says Jo Nell.
“People across all the different ages,” Nancy adds.
People, of course, don’t always get along.
“No matter what you do, you will have problems you have to overcome,” says Jo Nell. Somehow, she observes, they always seem able to recover and keep on going.
“If you put in hours of your life,” she says, “you want it to work.”
“Maybe that’s what has made it, and what will make it survive,” Jo Nell surmises of the work on the third floor. “That it was done by people that gave their time and their love to make it happen.”
Welcoming New Members
“A lot of people come and go,” Diana says. “New people are the lifeblood of the organization.”
The Players will hold open auditions in February. Anyone who wants to do anything related to the theater is encouraged to attend.
“If you want to act, come to the open call,” says Dave. “If you want to be backstage, also come to the call.”
“We don’t charge dues,” Jo Nell says. “You just have to volunteer.”
What’s Next for the Players?
There’s talk of tackling Noises Off! , this spring. The 1982 play that has been called “the funniest farce ever written.” According to Jo Nell, The Players have wanted to do this play for many years, but the set design is challenging. For the play to work, the set has to be safe for the actors while giving an impression that all in peril. Added to that, the play-within-a-play means timing is everything.
“It will be challenging, but a lot of fun,” says Nancy.