Theatre Victoria’s production of “Mamma Mia!” debuts Friday and six more performances run through Aug. 4 at the Welder Center for the Performing Arts. The production is taking the family feeling of community theater to new heights with Laura and Kate Klimist, mother-daughter duo from Victoria, playing the fictional mother and daughter in the musical.

Through the songs of ABBA, the musical tells the story of a young woman attempting to determine the identity of her father so he can walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. A veteran of the theater, Laura is making her acting debut. She is a formally trained dancer who has choreographed routines for the community theater for 35 years.

“I’ve worked with people so long on the stage that I get the process,” Laura said. “So many incredibly talented people working behind the scenes and onstage.”

And Kate, who has been around the theater her entire life because of her mother, is returning to the Welder Center stage. Kate earned her degree in theater from Pepperdine University and traveled home from California to perform with her mother. Together, they have seen “Mamma Mia!” several times over the course of many years, and the musical has become symbolic of their close relationship. In fact, as a child, Kate commented to her mother that they should play the lead roles one day.

So the upcoming performance is especially meaningful for them and the theater community with whom they have spent so much of their time and energy.

“A lot of the people I see in the theater now, I have worked with since they were young children, and now they are grown up – some left for college and came back, some are in the process of going to college,” Laura said. “If they could see themselves through my eyes – the wonder about the things they have accomplished – they are like my own kids.”

Like Laura and Kate, some of the other actors are making their Victoria Theatre debuts and some are returning to the stage. Singers are learning to dance and act; actors are learning to sing and dance; and dancers are learning to act and sing. And some possess two or more of these talents as is the case with Kate who qualifies as a “triple threat.”

They are high school students with aspirations to study and pursue careers in theater. They are college students already studying theater who are home for the summer. They are alumni of theater arts programs who moved home after college or returned home for the performance. They are Crossroads residents with other career aspirations and careers who are passionate about theater. And they are family, literally and figuratively, during the time they spend rehearsing and performing for their Crossroads family. That is what community theater is about.

Since 1976, Theatre Victoria, formerly Victoria Community Theatre, has brought together performers and audiences from different cultures and families and all walks of life. The experiences have enriched lives, inspired careers and passions, entertained audiences and strengthened community bonds. The theater’s Triple Threat Theatre (T3) Summer Camps have helped children “build performance skills and confidence” and explore performing arts while collaborating with groups.

As the resident company at the beautiful Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, Theatre Victoria also contributes to the revitalization of downtown Victoria.

“Community theaters involve more participants, present more performances of more productions, and play to more people than any other performing art in the country,” according to the American Association of Community Theatre. Furthermore, the association asserts that culture is a link to the past and future and a bridge to human understanding; creativity and expression are critical to developing problem-solving skills, nurturing the human spirit and surviving as an expanding world; and theater promotes collaboration, team-building and community pride.

The Victoria Advocate encourages you to support performing arts in the Crossroads. Go see “Mamma Mia!” and the other upcoming Theatre Victoria performances.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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