The Panhandle Players welcomed the county’s theatre community to its new home at the Chapman Auditorium earlier this month.

Close to 75 people attended a meet-and-greet membership meeting Sunday afternoon, Aug. 14 in the auditorium, as they learned about the theatre troupe’s plans for the new venue, its upcoming season, and how they can get involved in  keeping theatre alive and well in Franklin County.

Several of the actors were in costume, as they mingled with the guests enjoying an array of sandwiches and sweets

Ed Aguiar, who heads up Panhandle Players’ board of directors, addressed the audience, outlining how he has worked closely with County Attorney Michael Shuler, County Coordinator Michael Morón and former Director of Administrative Services Alan Pierce to hammer out the terms of a long-term lease agreement with the county.

County commissioners have agreed in principle to have the Panhandle Players manage the auditorium of the historic 1930s Art Deco building, and are expected to consider approving the agreement at their Sept. 6 meeting.

Terms of the contract have not been finalized but are likely to include a 15-year vesting period for the thousands of dollars in curtains, lighting and sound equipment that the Panhandle Players plans to invest in the auditorium. After that period the equipment would become property of the county, but if the contract were terminated early, the equipment could be sold back to the county after depreciation.

The board met this week to review proposals to add lighting and sound equipment, as well as back-stage curtains to assist with acoustics.

“It will take $60,000 to $80,000 to do all the things we need to do,” said Aguiar. “The building itself is in pretty good shape.”

The 2016-17 season is set to begin in mid-November with the presentation of three one-act plays (see sidebar).

In February, veteran actor Tom Loughridge will direct the American classic “The Time of Your Life,” by William Saroyan. In April, the comedy “12 Incompetent Jurors,” by Ian McWethy will be the show. Plus in July, the troupe plans to put on the play “Misery,” based on the Stephen King classic.

The Panhandle Players plan to market tickets online, with reserved seating, doing away with selling general admission tickets at venues throughout Franklin and Gulf counties. With plenty of seats available in the specious auditorum, patrons can choose where they want to sit, and obtain their tickets easily ahead of time.

Once the deal had been reached with the county, the Panhandle Players plan to invest their own time and muscle to refurbish the floors, freshen up the paint, and make the state suitable for use by the entire community. The Panhandle Players have been tasked with managing the site for use by organizations throughout the county.