Zilker Theatre Productions celebrates 55 years, continues to expand



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Posted on July 27, 2013 at 6:37 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 27 at 10:20 PM

AUSTIN -- Another production of Little Shop of Horrors will go on Saturday night at the Zilker Hillside Theatre, but it's what the audience doesn't see that helps keep the theatre afloat.

It's the longest running outdoor production of it's kind in the U.S., they're celebrating 55 years this year. After all those years they're still going strong, in fact, they're even expanding.

Even in the Central Texas heat, crowds fill Zilker Hillside Theatre all summer long to see a Broadway style musical.

"It's really cool to be outside and have this theater experience," said Caitie Haws at Friday's performance.

 "We've been doing it for years, we took our kids here when they were young, now they're teenagers," explained Heidi Gibbons

"I bring them out here and they come reluctant, and they lean over to me and say 'this is good!'" added John Faulk, the community liaison for Zilker Hillside Productions

Faulk says they've been putting on musicals since 1959. The Hillside Theatre itself came in 1994. It's free of charge and Faulk says it always will be.

"Most families cannot see a live Broadway musical because it's too expensive," Faulk explained. "We've inspired so many kids to get involved in singing or arts."

As crowds enjoy the performance on stage, it's what happens behind the scenes that keeps the production going.

"City budgets are tight and it was hard to come by money to keep things up," Faulk explained.

They work off of donations and private grants. In the past four years the non-profit has completed about $600,000 in various projects and expansion backstage continues.

 "People said 'why don't you charge?', even in times we needed money I say 'no, we'll make it work someway'," Faulk said.

They'll make it work so the show can go on. "This is our park and this is just great," Gibbons said.

They hope crowds can keep coming for the next 55 years.

Some of the planned expansion includes, more backstage space, audience bathrooms,and bigger dressing rooms. Faulk says they even have several architects and engineers who donate their time to make it all possible.