Palmetto Business Association hears about local theater success

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By David Meade
During their monthly meeting Tuesday, members of the Palmetto Business Association heard from representatives of First Citizens Bank and the Mill Town Players.
The Toast and Topics breakfast meeting was sponsored by First Citizens Bank in Williamston.
Branch Manager Faye Meares, District Manager Rocky Miller and Mortgage Banker Renee Mason spoke briefly about services offered by the bank.
Miller said that most of the services are available at most banks, but what sets them apart is how they treat customers.
“We feel bigger than a local community bank,” but added that the personal service, makes the difference.”
He said First Citizens has a new slogan, “Better Banking, Building Better Lives.”
Miller said two things that First Citizens offers that others may not are a business lease on equipment with a $1 buy out at the end and fraud protection.
The group also heard from Mill Town Players Executive Director Will Ragland.
Ragland presented information about the local theater company which is enjoying tremendous success.
“It is amazing how quickly things have grown,” Ragland said.
While serving as theater teacher at Woodmont High School for ten years, Ragland said he saw how “performing arts can change the perception of a community.”
From that he found a “unique mission” to offer quality live theatre, at an affordable price.
Ragland said theater tickets are usually $35 to $40 for a locally produced play, which he said is “cutting out an entire contingent of people who will come see it.”
“I knew how to put on a production, and with the right production, and the right place, could make it work.”
He said officials with Anderson School District One asked him to start a local community theatee and offered the Historic Pelzer Auditorium.
With low ticket prices of just $10, and discount for seniors and students at $8 and $7, and quality productions, Ragland has built a successful local theater that draws people locally and from across the upstate.
Ragland said attendance the first season was approximately 10,000, double to approximately 20,000 the second year and has grown to over 30,000, which he said is larger than others located larger towns of Greenville and Spartanburg.
“I knew with a quality production, cheap tickets and lots of seats, I could make it work,” he said.
Ragland is also the theater teacher at Palmetto High School.
Under his direction, the Mustang Stage Company will offer th upcoming production of “Little Shop of Horrors” next week. Ragland will be performing the “voice” of the plant that is at the center of the play.
Puppets for the production are being made in Atlanta, he said.
The show will be next Thursday – Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $7.
The Mill Town Players have also started an Education program with summer camps for all ages of persons who may be interested in acting.
Veronica Mackey, business manager for Mill Town Players said the program is for anyone with a secret desire to be acting.
The camps also serve as auditions for upcoming MTP productions, Ragland said.
The Mill Town Players productions feature local talent combined with professionals.
Ragland said people love seeing their neighbors, people they know on stage. “I love seeing veterans and beginners, together on the same stage,” he said.
He said actors in the productions are from all across the upstate and include newcomers, young to retired.
PBA president Bobby Winburn thanked Ragland for what the Mill town PLayers have done for the area and for working with young people, the next generation.
For more information on the PBA visit palmettobusiness.org.
For more information on upcoming productions of the Mill town Players, go to their website at milltownplayers.org.