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Midland Melodrama

Melodrama, a common convention of turn-of-the-century stage and screen, still thrives in performances of Midland’s annual Summer Mummers, which celebrates its 50th season this year. It’s the longest-running summer theater in Texas.

In 1949, supporters of the Midland Community Theatre were searching for ways to raise funds to improve their theater space. While the group discussed the newfound popularity of melodrama in California, the word “mummers”—the name for 19th-Century English street performers—popped out of someone’s mouth. Summer Mummers was born.

Today, in the restored 1929 Yucca Theatre, a cast and crew of nearly 200 volunteers perform an original script by a local author each season—though some productions prove so popular they merit repeating. This summer’s offering, a classic showdown between good and evil called Rascality on the Rig, or Oil’s Well that Ends Well, returns for its fifth run, pitting nefarious villain Lester Leasehold against hero Terence Trueblue and his comely girlfriend, Patience Plugback.

Did we mention the boisterous audience participation? On any given night, the bad guys get booed and heckled, the good guys bask in cheers and applause, and enough popcorn gets hurled onstage—a Mummers tradition—to fill dozens of trash bags. A colorful olio of dance numbers, a sing-along, comedy routines, and a can-can finale wrap up the evening.

See the Summer Mummers of Midland Community Theatre Fri-Sat from June 26-July 4, then Thu-Sat July 9-Sep. 5. Tickets cost $4-$14. The theater is wheelchair accessible. Write to 2000 W. Wadley, Midland 79705, or call 915/682-4111.

From the July 1998 issue.

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