Artist of Distinction
Sharon Markee’s time with LCT started in 1970 when she volunteered to usher for Gypsy and was told to pick out a costume to wear to help set the mood. She knew she got it right when on opening night, a patron asked her, “Are you Gypsy?”
Today, Sharon is the quintessential volunteer, twice recognized as Volunteer of the Year in 2007 and 2012. She has acted, ushered, done props, makeup, costumes, painted and built sets, chaired the History Committee and created a presentation to celebrate LCT’s 50th anniversary, served on numerous other committees, and is a season ticket holder and patron donor.
“It seems ‘no’ is not in my vocabulary when it comes to LCT,” she says.
Her favorite volunteer role is painting sets with Dillon McArdle (ten years) and Tim Harris (five years). Sharon has many fond memories at LCT, but the one she remembers most is “paint it blue!” During the day of Senior Preview for Leading Ladies (2012), it was announced that the entire two-story yellow set had to be painted blue! Although shocked and frazzled, she simply said, “Let’s get started.”
Sharon has acted in numerous LCT productions including On Golden Pond, The Curious Savage, and Calendar Girls. In her opinion, “The most rewarding play, but certainly the most emotional to perform, was Women of Lockerbie. Through seven wonderful months, I was awed by the talent of my fellow actors and honored to share various stages with them. Winning State and Regional competitions and going to Nationals was awesome and an experience I will cherish forever!” Another unforgettable honor was being chosen as an extra for the movie Fort McCoy, which she auditioned for at LCT.
When asked what is the greatest gift or opportunity LCT has given you, Sharon’s answer is thoughtful and heartfelt, “A second family and home, really, with an ever-changing family. I’ve learned so much from everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on and off stage and how to really listen, get along with a diverse group of people, and step into worlds I may not otherwise see. But, the time I’ve devoted to theatre has only been possible with the love and support of my husband, Mike, and daughter, Andrea. They’ve unselfishly given up time together to allow me to spend time doing something I love. It’s a family thing inside and outside the theatre; they help me with my lines and, along with other devoted family members and friends, attend performances. Love and many thanks to all of you!”
For certain, Sharon loves the theatre and she hopes that more people will give LCT a try:
“I encourage others, young and old, to become involved in any area they desire—their talents, whatever they may be, are needed and always appreciated. Whether you have an hour or an entire day, LCT needs you. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the theatre.”
Managing Director of Distinction
Tim began his professional relationship with LCT as the Managing Director in the fall of 1982.
“This was the beginning of a five year, very important part of my artistic life. I was originally drawn to the organization by its place in the artistic environment of the La Crosse Community. The first show that I directed was Carousel— the 101st play produced by LCT. I was responsible for the next thirty productions.”
One of his favorites was The Gin Game with Julia Steinke Saterbak and Bill Nelson. It was a powerful and moving production that received first place honors at Wisconsin’s Festival of America’s Community Theatres in 1983. Tim was the first LCT director to enter a production in a competition, thus bringing LCT new fame and acknowledgement from beyond La Crosse.
“Watching these two excellent actors grow into their characters was one of the thrills of my life,” he says. “Watching Julia stand up and throw her cards on the table and yell, ‘GIN GOD DAMNIT, GIN!’ will never be forgotten. It still on occasion haunts my dreams!”
Tim recalls other beloved productions: “In the 20th season, mounting the first ever LCT full length Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore was an absolute blast from beginning to end! Wilma Scheffner, Dan Johnson-Wilmont, Colleen Kavanaugh, and the entire cast—you are amazing! Of course the 1986 production of The Music Man, complete with a full marching band at Viterbo College, was one of my favorite undertakings.”
Tim actually worked with several bands from the area for The Music Man. A different band performed each night.
Actors and crew members describe Tim as an exceptional director—creative, innovative, and inspiring. But he did more than just direct. Tim created the LCT Studio Series, giving amateur directors and playwrights an opportunity to produce new works and smaller scale plays. These shows were in addition to the regular season. This resulted in many amazing shows, including Greater Tuna, a comedy that featured two actors playing 44 characters. Tim demonstrated his superb acting skills in this production.
Tim’s final LCT production was in the spring of 1987. Currently, he and his partner run their own artisan chocolate company, Elixir Chocolates. They travel throughout the southwest selling confections.
“LCT gave me the opportunity to develop my skills and the chance to build many lifelong friendships. My fondest memories from LCT are the many friends that I made and still cherish. LCT was truly a wonderful part of my life and my growth artistically. I encourage current members and volunteers to keep on doing what we have done at LCT for years—inspire the youth of our country to get involved in the arts. Thanks La Crosse!”
Artist of Distinction
When Kathleen Pantzer moved with her family to the La Crosse area in the 1970’s, she had only enjoyed theatre as an audience member. Shortly after arriving, Kathleen spied an audition notice in the newspaper for a show at LCT. This looked to be a great way to get involved in the community and make some new friends. So, inexperienced as she was but eager to try new things, Kathleen auditioned, got a small role, and took the first step in her long LCT journey. It would include a variety of theatrical duties and span the course of three decades.
Kathleen performed in many plays and musicals. Among her favorite roles are Harriet in The Man Who Came to Dinner, Ethel Savage in The Curious Savage, and Miss Tipdale in Not Now Darling, for which she won a Dionysus Award. She tapped into her “creative, technical side” by designing and hanging lights, painting sets, and helping with costumes. Never afraid of heights, Kathleen was regularly seen perched high atop step ladders while she adjusted lights or ran spotlight, which earned her a Special Recognition Award for technical work. Kathleen also served as an assistant director and stage manager for a number of productions including: Once Upon a Mattress, Don’t Dress for Dinner, and Annie.
Kathleen has manny fond memories of her years with LCT, but one of her favorites is watching her youngest son, Tommy, play the role of Tiny Tim in LCT’s production of A Christmas Carol. When asked what is the greatest gift or opportunity LCT has given you, she smiles and says,
“All of it. I loved meeting so many people while working on these wonderful La Crosse Community Theatre shows!”
Scott and Mary Rathgaber
Artists of Distinction
For Scott and Mary Rathgaber, theatre means “Family.” Scott, Mary, and their two children have been involved in practically every type of volunteer activity LCT has to offer for the past thirteen years. Their son, Adam, was the first to join LCT in the early 2000’s, performing in a few ensemble roles through the Children’s Theatre Outreach program.
Scott’s involvement began in 2005 when he accompanied Adam to the auditions for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Once there, he was asked if he wanted to audition too. With no prior acting experience, he thought, “Sure, maybe I could be cast as the grandpa that just lies in bed. Not many lines.” He was cast as Willy Wonka, and his son was cast as Charlie.
Since then, Scott has appeared on stage in many LCT shows, including: BIG: The Musical, Babes in Toyland, The Producers, Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus, and The Wizard of Oz. Two of his most memorable roles are the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz and Director Roger De Bris in The Producers.
Though not an actress, Mary generously gave her time when other members of the family were on stage. She worked on tech and stage crews, sold concessions, and ushered for most performances. One of Mary’s funniest memories was seeing Scott sashay around the stage in a sparkly silver dress that resembled the Statue of Liberty in The Producers.
Scott has fond memories as well. He used to watch Jana Schreier sing to his son, Adam, during an emotional part of BIG: The Musical from backstage. He had to wipe tears away before going on for his first scene every time.
Scott and Mary agree that the greatest gift LCT has given them is the opportunity to do something as a family; everyone can play an active role. They believe theatre is a place to learn valuable life skills, like public speaking, listening to audience feedback, and making a commitment to a group of people. The cast and crew become your family and even offer support off the stage.
The Rathgabers have always felt welcome and valued at LCT, even as people with no prior experience. They encourage other families to get involved.
“The bond formed during rehearsals or volunteering feels real and deep.”
Artist of Distinction
Dick Sartz always loved the theatre and while watching plays, he would often ask himself,
“I wonder if I could do that?”
In 1973, at the ripe young age of 54, he got his chance. Dick and his wife, Mary Jean, read an ad in the La Crosse Tribune announcing tryouts for a play called The Cherry Orchard at La Crosse Community Theatre. Mary Jean quickly encouraged Dick, “I think you should go. Just try it.”
Even though he had never acted or even read the play, Dick auditioned and was cast as the eccentric 87-year old manservant, Firs, a role he remembers fondly because of the “unique” stage makeup he wore.
“The makeup artist first applied karo syrup to my face, followed by torn pieces of facial tissue, that was then dotted with water to make “wrinkles,” before applying regular stage makeup,” he recalls with a laugh.
Dick has volunteered in many capacities at LCT: working backstage, stage managing, serving on play reading committees, ushering for every show he was not cast in, and repairing theatre seats. He and Mary Jean even did duty one day as “Sartz Cleaning Service” to tidy up the green room at the old theatre on 5th Avenue. He enjoyed it all, but acting is by far his favorite. He has appeared in 46 LCT shows and liked every one of them.
“The whole creative process of developing a character from start to finish is exciting, as you wonder who this written character in the script is finally going to become when he appears on the stage.”
Dick smiles as he recounts his many roles. “I had the time of my life portraying such diverse characters: an Oklahoma farmer, a bum, a drunk, a minister, a Founding Father in 1776, President FDR, and a retired professor who summers On Golden Pond” (which happens to be Dick’s favorite play and the one that earned him one of his four Dionysus Awards). His favorite line of all time was at the end of the show when his character has a heart attack. After the wife shouts, “Get your nitroglycerine!” Dick followed with, “I’ll blow up!”
Dick’s favorite part was Jimmy, the town misfit in Penalty for Early Withdrawal. Jimmy had dementia, slept in a phone booth, and heard the Lord talking to him. Dick remembers incorporating comic Charlie Chaplin moves to add more humor to the role.
Dick has even had his brush with the famous. While playing Kit Carson in LCT’s 1978 production of The Time of Your Life, Dick was visited backstage by Julie Hayden, the actress who originated the role of Kitty in the Broadway production. Much impressed with Dick’s performance, she told him that his portrayal was better than the actor who played Kit on Broadway!