Renovations keep theatre moving on to the next act

For Peggy and Terry Girard, Melbourne Civic Theatre, or MCT, is a second home, with an association that spans decades.

“I have been involved with MCT in one way or another for 45 years,” said Peggy Girard, who started volunteering there in high school when the organization was known as Indian River Players.

She has done it all, from costumes to acting, to stage managing up to her current job as resident director.

Terry Girard is the MCT newbie of the two, since his involvement began when he joined the cast of “The Shadow Box” in 1982, just shy of 40 years ago. To keep the show going on, he was in more than half of the productions during the pandemic.

“I’ve been with the organization through many highs and lows, in its various locations,” he said.

Despite those ups and downs, MCT has survived when many other similar groups have called it quits. Brevard’s longest running arts organization started life modestly in the municipal auditorium at Trailer Haven in 1952. After three seasons, the theatre moved to a former Navy mess hall at the World War II-era Naval Air Station located on the site of Melbourne Orlando International Airport. Partially burned down, the mess hall was renovated and served as the theatre’s home for almost a quarter of a century.

Renovation has accompanied the theatre throughout its history. In 1988, the group joined the efforts to renovate the Henegar Center in downtown Melbourne, becoming the resident theatre group — with a name change from Indian River Players to Melbourne Civic Theatre — when the former school reopened as the Henegar Center for the Performing Arts in 1991.

It was time for renovations, again, in 1999, when MCT turned the former Meadowlane Library in West Melbourne into a theater.

Renovations were finally over when MCT moved to its current home at La Galerie in downtown Melbourne. The 93-seat theater was once The Ensemble Theatre of Florida and later the Phoenix Theatre.

Terry Girard, who has performed in all of the South Brevard theater venues, knows that each theater is singular in character.

“Each has its own culture and core group of people,” he said.

He enjoys MCT’s six-week runs, typically longer than most of the other community theaters.

“After putting all the effort into learning a play, it’s nice to get to do it a while,” he said.

Working together with Peggy Girard is another definite plus.

“Doing a show together can have the minor stress of any couple’s project, but it’s time we spend together, and hanging out after a performance is our primary mode of socializing with friends,” he said.