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Show must go on for Hill Country Community Theatre after death of executive director

Patty Gosselin of the Hill Country Community Theatre

Patty Gosselin, president of the Hill Country Community Theatre board, took over as the theater's interim executive director after the death of Mike Rademaekers on Aug. 29. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley

Hill Country Community Theatre productions came to a sudden and devastating halt after the unexpected death of Executive Director Mike Rademaekers on Aug. 29. The 59-year-old died from complications of COVID-19. Now, after several months of mourning and recuperating, the show will go on.

“His impact on this organization and his community will always be remembered, but we know he would have wanted us to keep going,” said Patty Gosselin, president of the theater’s board. “He brought a new perspective that we hadn’t had in a while and was a big presence in the community. Losing Mike was a devastating loss for the theater.”

After a year of pandemic-related setbacks, the 2021 season was just getting underway when Rademaekers died. In fact, the summer musical “The Addams Family” — the best-selling production in the Cottonwood Shores theater’s 36-year history and the last one produced and directed by Rademaekers — closed just two weeks before.

In an attempt to keep the nonprofit theater moving forward, Gosselin, who has served on the board off and on for about nine years and helped hire Rademaekers in 2013, volunteered to step in as interim director. The job, she said, proved to be much more difficult than expected. 

“I had to put the puzzle pieces together by going through old emails and paperwork in the office,” Gosselin said. “There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into running a theater that many people, including myself, forget about.” 

That includes obtaining the rights to productions from licensing companies, which consider factors such as how often a play has been performed in the area and the price of tickets before granting necessary contracts. 

Gosselin said she will take the firsthand knowledge of what it takes to run a theater into consideration when hiring a new executive director.

Hill Country Community Theatre Executive Director Mike Rademaekers
Mike Rademaekers, executive director of the Hill Country Community Theatre, died Aug. 29 after battling COVID-19. Courtesy photo

Rademaekers brought invaluable experience to the Hill Country Community Theatre, all of which he gained as an actor, producer, director, and lighting and sound systems operator. The theater’s board will look for someone with similar attributes, Gosselin said.

“We want someone who thinks outside of the box and is willing to meet and get along with a variety of people,” she said. “Our goal is always to serve the community, so that means the new director will have to balance our primary audience, which is made up of older people, while appealing to younger patrons as well.” 

Rademaekers will be hard to replace, she admitted, but board members are committed to finding someone who can keep the spirit and mission he brought to the community alive. With that in mind, they created the Mike Rademaekers Talent Development Fund. 

“Mike’s greatest skill was nurturing talent,” Gosselin said. “He was really good with young people. We wanted to create a legacy fund for him to continue to do that.” 

The fund helps offset costs for youth theater workshops by offering financial assistance and bringing in new materials.

The theater held a memorial tribute to Rademaekers on Nov. 13. 

Physical upgrades that had been discussed before Rademaeker’s death were completed in October, including new carpet inside the lobby and a fresh coat of paint. Through the help of artist Michael Fox, the theater now sports a mural of the Greek comedy and tragedy masks on the building’s facade. 

Gosselin, Box Office Manager Louraine Robertson, and the theater’s accountant, Steve Gibbs, wanted to see the improvements through as a way of raising morale. 

“We needed a pick-me-up to let the community know we’re still here,” Gosselin said.

ON STAGE

The remainder of the theater’s 2021 lineup includes nine performances of “A Doublewide, Texas Christmas” from Dec. 3-19 as well as the holiday musical revue “Christmas in Song” on Dec. 4, 11, and 18. The production of “Nunsense: A-Men,” which was planned for January 2022 after being postponed due to Rademaeker’s death and cast members contracting COVID-19, has been canceled. 

Productions planned for 2022 include a compilation of comedy skits from “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Birthday Club” by playwright Phil Olson, and the musical “Destry Rides Again.” 

For production dates, audition information, and details on how to become a season pass holder, visit thehcct.org.

brigid@thepicayune.com