When a small group from Benton staged "Godspell" in 1977, they had no idea a tradition was born that would continue for the next 40 years.
"We took what we loved to do and just ran with it," said Brian Summers, one of the group that became Pyramid Players.
The Pyramid Players will celebrate its 40th anniversary next weekend with a gala at the Benton Civic Center, showcasing moments from past shows.
In its 40-year run, the group has produced a number of kids who have gone on to make a living in the entertainment industry. The group includes performers, teachers and technical crew.
Rend Lake College theater professor Tracey Brioullette Webb is one of those.
"Summer stock theater is the best thing you could have," Webb said. "We need cultural arts. We need this enrichment in this small community."
Webb, who has several Pyramid Players credits to her name, is one of several veteran performers sharing the stage with her own child for the gala. Webb and her daughter, Josie, share several numbers.
"It's very exciting," she said. "It's the first show where we've ever been on stage together."
Alicia Leffler is another performer whose summer craft blossomed into a career. Leffler first performed with Pyramid Players in 1987, and has been directing children's shows since 1994.
"I can't imagine a summer without it," she said. "It's what we do to continue our craft and bring musical theater to southern Illinois."
Leffler, who plays piano in the pit orchestra, also has children in the show.
Pyramid Players began its run with "Godspell," which was a relatively new musical at the time. School chums Brian Summers and Allan Kimball found success and knew they were
onto something that Southern Illinois needed. The next year, the group presented "Narnia" in the old Capitol Theatre on the Benton Public Square. In the third season, the group moved to
RendLake College, presenting "Cinderella."
In its 40-year run, the group that now includes Kimball's wife, Pam, and Summers' wife, Susan, as well as a list of volunteers that would fill a small book, has staged more than 100
shows that offered more than 2,800 roles for aspiring actors and actresses from the area.
The 40-year-milestone is a big accomplishment, Summers said.
"A lot of groups of this kind die on the vine and go away," he said. "We're still going and we have new blood, fresh families coming in."
Webb says the "whole process is exciting," and she hopes people will come out and enjoy themselves.
"I know I'm enjoying this," she says. "I don't know what we'll do if this ever stops."
Tickets are still available for the gala to be held at 7 p.m. July 21 and 22. The $20 ticket includes a dessert bar and beverage as well as an evening of what Webb describes as "one
show-stopper after another."
To reserve a ticket, visit bentonciviccenter.ticketleap.com.