About Lees-McRae Summer TheatreAbout Lees-McRae Summer Theatre

About Lees-McRae Summer Theatre


Lees-McRae Summer Theatre is committed to producing quality theatre experiences.  We serve audiences who view our productions, students who are training in their craft, and we serve the High Country community as collaborators for the betterment of our area.


1.  Provide quality productions using professional, community and student performers.

2. Educate audiences about the value of theater as a reflection of humanity.

3. Educate practitioners in the field of performing arts.

4.  To provide a positive and collaborative relationship between the college and the community. 


From 1979 through 1987, Janet Barton Speer would direct in various venues from outdoor dramas to dinner theatres.  The Dean of Lees-McRae College, James Stonesifer, asked if it was possible for her to stay in Banner Elk for the summer and created her own summer theatre.  In 1985 Lee-McRae Summer Theatre (LMST) began and it has been a successful venture ever since.  Never has LMST been “in the red,” running a fiscally responsible organization with professional actors,

On July 17, 1985, Lees-McRae Summer Theatre opened the doors to its first summer production series with I Do! I Do!, The Mousetrap, Coming of Age, and a children's production, Where Are Friends When You Need Them?, two of which were written by Janet. The performances were held in Hayes Auditorium, with 3,403 audience members in attendance. The year-round production staff consisted of Janet Speer, Jim Stonesifer and Joyce Ratliff (who was Administrative Assistant for 20 years). The rest of the summer theatre staff consisted of nine paid technicians, 20 volunteers, Performing Arts faculty Jim Taylor and Steve Parrish (who performed and served as music directors), and long-time friends of summer theatre Allen Speer, Cindy Stonesifer, the late Cathy Lyon, Tim Hill, Tessa Willoughby Carr, Blackie Nelson, Helen Tester, Jo Ann Taylor, Linda Weldon, Rolland Mullinex, Charlotte D'Armond Talbert and Phil Teagarden to name a few.

In 1990, Dr. Charlotte D'Armond Talbert became the company's first producer. Aside from performing, Charlotte laid the groundwork for new management structures, publicity and employee relations, and Theatre for Young People. Our current logo, summer theatre banner and playbill format were developed during her tenure with the assistance of Debby Bandy and Barbara Hosbein. In 1995, Paul Adamson joined our staff as the rehearsal and production pianist and holds these positions today.

In 1996, Kacy Crabtree came on board as the next Executive Director.  She has worn many hats, spearheaded several new programs, including the children's camp.

During the same year, Michael Hannah joined the staff as a pianist, publicity assistant and costume designer. Later on, Dr. Hannah would become one of the company’s directors. 

When Kacy Crabtree moved into college administration, Donna Morgan took over as Company Manager, doing an excellent job until her family moved to Washington, DC.

One afternoon, Janet Speer met with Budd and Nanette Mayer and the Advisory Committee was born, led first by Budd, and then by Ruth and Stan Etkin for several years.  Currently the committee is chaired by Roy Krege.

Summer Theatre would not be possible without the endorsement and support of Lees-McRae College, the Town of Banner Elk and Sugar Mountain, local businesses and the generosity of our numerous donors.

In turn, we bring nearly 100 paid performers, students, technicians and managers to Banner Elk.  We pride ourselves on our connectedness to the community.  Much of this is due to the addition of Roy and Marion Krege to our staff. 

Our management consists of a strong team that has provides strong and consistent leadership over the years; Pam Joslin as Operation Manager, Mindi Bishop as Costume Shop Forewoman, and Erin Wallace as Managing Director.  

As we begin Summer Theatre 2015, we look forward to fulfilling our goals and mission.

Just like today, Avery County was a catalyst for tourism in the mid 1980's. Summer in the mountains suggests wonderful opportunities to bring communities together; and what better way to do this than through Lees-McRae Summer Theatre? Our heritage, our commitment to the ideals of art and humanity, and our great attention to the heart have made our work special. As Janet says, "We may not have the bells and whistles, but we will always have the heart."

Summer Theatre Advisory Committee

Dee Dee Berger
Stuart Darrow
Arlene Darrow
Molle Grad
Jeff Handler
Barbara Hosbein
Linda Krakovitz-Stephens
Roy Krege
Marion Krege
Neil Lentin
Meliné Markarian
Budd Mayer
Nanette Mayer
Nanci Tolbert-Nance
Sandi Finci-Solomon