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Melody Spence says performing in ACT 1 built up her self-esteem after a serious car accident.

Every ACT 1 production, says Doug Martens, features local residents of all ages “expressing their creativity in a way we sometimes can’t do in our every day lives.”

As Martens and the cast and crew of “The Red Velvet Cake War" prepare to open the comedy this week, they are also sharing their thoughts on what being part of ACT 1 has meant to them, and encouraging others to join the local community theater.

“The great thing is that we have so many talented individuals in Vinton and the surrounding Benton County that is easy to find folks to help. But, that said, we can always use more,” said Martens.

No experience is necessary; some ACT 1 performers had never been on stage before joining a local production. Many even say it has helped them to overcome obstacles.

Melody Spence, who plays the local-access cable TV personality Cee Cee Windham in “Cake War,” said becoming an ACT 1 performer helped her to move on after she lost part of her leg due to a traffic accident.

“After a car accident that left me an amputee, I wasn't sure I would have a chance to participate. I was so thrilled to be a part of the production of 'Oklahoma!' and I can't tell you how much it built up my self-esteem and broadened horizons on the possibilities of things that I could do,” said Spence.

She had always wanted to try community theater, but said she did not have time until her children had grown.

“Spence's ACT 1 debut was playing Aunt Eller in "Oklahoma!"

“After my first experience I was hooked," she said. "I enjoy meeting and getting to know the people who so generously give of their time and talents so the community can enjoy great entertainment.”

Spence encourages others who have secretly wanted to become an actor or actress to consider participating in future shows.

“I have made many friends in the plays I have been privileged to participate in, and I recommend the experience to anyone,” she says.

Bonnie Beyer is another ACT 1 regular who decided to start acting as an adult.

“I had never even thought about community theater until I saw the ad for ‘My Fair Lady’ auditions back in 2001, which happens to be one of my favorite musicals,” said Beyer. “I was in the chorus for that and had a lot of fun, so I tried out for the spring play, which was Harvey, and was given the part of Nurse Kelly.”

After getting married and having a baby, Beyer took some time away from the stage until hearing about auditions for “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

“Playing the chaperone in that musical was the most fun I can remember having – seriously,” she said. “We laughed our heads off every rehearsal and every show. We're having a lot of fun with Red Velvet Cake War too. That's what it's always been about for me - having fun. The people in ACT I are great people, and they have lives and jobs and families just like all of us. We're certainly not perfect, but it isn't about that. It's about enjoying spending time with the people in our community and working together to create plays and musicals and memories.”

Mandy Barker, who plays the lead role of Peaches in “Red Velvet Cake Wars,” began performing at a young age and earned state-wide honors with her mime act in high school speech contests.

“Act 1 is very welcoming and lots of fun,” says Barker, who made her debut as child in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”.

“I have had the chance to work with a few different directors now and I have learned something new each time. It's great how close we all become as a cast and there are always lots of laughs!!

Although she says she has never been shy, Barker encourages the more bashful among us to consider ACT 1.

“I would say to give it a shot; even if you don't want to be on stage there are lots of other opportunities, such as stage manager, costume design, etc.,” she says.

As for Martens, the ‘Cake War’ director, he was simply volunteering at the Palace Theatre concession stand when former manager Lu Karr invited him to become involved in the annual Variety show.

“After that I directed the ‘On Broadway Variety Show,'” Martens recalls. “Since then I have been involved in many on- and off-stage roles and am currently the ACT I Board President. ACT I offers all ages from young to very mature adults a way to express their creativity in a way that we can't sometimes do in our everyday lives. Developing a character to an on-stage presence and making people laugh at and cry for that character is a great feeling.”

Martens does caution newcomers that being part of ACT 1 does require a significant amount of time.

“It does take a lot of commitment,” he said. “As a director, actor and part of a stage crew it takes many volunteer hours to learn lines, block scenes and put pieces of written word on stage."

Martens offers this invitation to those interesting in becoming part of ACT 1:

“If you are interested in all being an actor, director, stage help or working behind the scenes in a support capacity like selling tickets or being an usher, call us and leave a message at our new local number 214-0096, or visit our website at for details on upcoming events and auditions. You can also find us on FaceBook.”

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