In the Beginning: An interview with Bette Evans Halverstadt recorded and edited by Jane Heald — July 2, 2015

by (listed at end)

(Bette Evans Halverstadt was on the Board of Directors.)

Can you remember when the Playhouse was first started?

Well, in the beginning, I knew Mary Crabtree’s mother (Eula Ducey) from church, and she told me that they were coming to town. Eula wanted me to meet Mary. Mary was from near Pittsburgh, and I was from near Pittsburgh. Mary had a bunch of kids and I had a bunch of kids. I had six, and she had more than that, maybe.

The Crabtrees were wonderful, coming into a little town and being thrown into it right away. They had Children’s Theatre. That was one of the first things. Big show. It was everything: singing, dancing. I think they did it in one of the schools to begin with. And their kids were great–smart kids. Mary’s children already had some experience on the stage before they came here … up in New England I think. Paul was the director.

A committee got started. I can’t tell you exactly how. We had to raise money for the Playhouse. A lot of people worked on that. It was an exciting time, I’ll tell you. It was all new. Everybody got interested … the parents, my kids saved their allowances to get a share of stock. And it wasn’t just my family. A lot of kids did this.

Everybody was so excited.

Everybody in town, almost, bought shares. I was treasurer. For some reason I got to take up the pledges (that’s a long time ago for me). It was the Crabtrees coming to town. The building was built from the money … from the pledges.

I was involved in nearly all the details, the rehearsals. Everybody had to make costumes (they didn’t have anything like that) … all kinds: angels, and pirates. They had committees to help Mary and Paul.

What kind of things did Mary do?

She did everything. They didn’t even know the people that well. They got to knowing people by their interactions … had to learn the kids and their skills; what they might be able to do; who would be good at singing. She helped train kids for the parts. She helped with a little of everything.

My name was Evans. Jack Evans was my husband. He was in the plays, too. He played a good part. He did theater before I did, up in Philadelphia. He was friends with Paul and Mary. They stayed at our house and everything.

Nobody had experience. It was new to everybody. It was fun for the kids.

I was in Kiss and Tell. I told, and I kissed. I can remember … I was one of the main characters … that kissed, I think …

What did Jack Evans think of that?

He was all for it.

Do you have a collection of early programs?

I do but I don’t want to lose them. I think I have all the ones that I was in. I have all the ones my son was in. He grew up with it. In fact, my son Bruce ended up being an actor in Washington, DC. And he started right here. Great for kids to have that opportunity.

That’s the good thing about the Crabtrees. Mary and Paul were wonderful. They were a wonderful family.

It’s all true.

© Jane Heald
Used by Permission