Best Stage Performances Include Shakespeare, Cash and the Founding Fathers

Tyler Civic Theatre's production of Ring of Fire -- the life, love and music of Johnny and June Carter Cash -- garnered the cast (shown here) and crew the title of Best Play in the Best of the Upper East Side of Texas contest.

County Line Magazine celebrates its 15th year of conducting the annual Best of the Upper East Side of Texas readers survey. Among the more than 3,500 nominations and some 60 ultimate recognitions were numerous visual, performing and musical arts winners. This blog will feature those winners in various groupings over the next several weeks.

Some of the categories’ winners are divided by size of the town, 50,000 and under and 50,000 and over. The winners represent a great selection of what visitors and residents alike enjoy in the Upper East Side of Texas.

This week's focus is on the performance (stage) arts. [For the complete list of winners across all categories, visit]

Best Play

Under 50k

1776. Lake Country Playhouse. Mineola. Last summer’s 1776 — the spirited retelling in music of the crucial beginnings of our nation’s history — garnered many votes as the region’s top stage production. The musical was directed by Bob Hibbard and featured a talented group of knickered, bonneted and powder-wigged actors. 114 North Johnson Street, (903) 569-2300.

Honorable Mention: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Lindale Community Theater

Over 50k

Ring of Fire. Tyler Civic Theatre. In June, Tyler Civic Theatre entertained audiences with the foot-stomping musical story of country music great Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Ring of Fire had it all: hit songs, drama, humor, romance and nostalgia. Directed by Helen Strotman, the stage hit starred Ray Carter as Johnny and Libby Davis as June. 400 Rose Park Drive, (903) 592-0561.

Best Theatre Company

Community Players. Sulphur Springs. Community Players simply do theater right. Operating out of the Main Street Theatre, Sulphur Springs, the company gets high praise, year in and year out. According to one fan: “Great local theater at a reasonable price, talented cast, and cozy atmosphere. Highly recommend!” Equally impressive is the brave undertakings in 2018 like Vintage Hitchcock: A Radio Play and the tearful Women of Lockerbie. Additionally, the theater company welcomes the thespians of the future to get hands-on exposure to theater once or twice a year. 227 Main Street, 903-885-0107.

Honorable Mention: Community Theatre of East Texas, Hughes Springs.

Best Actor/Actress

Rodney Mize. Mize has won the public’s confidence for his stand-out role as the singing and dancing character of John Adams in the production of 1776 by Mineola’s Lake Country Playhouse. Mize reminded audiences through his winsome performance that, yes, “politics” can be fun to watch. 114 North Johnson Street, (903) 569-2300,

Best Annual Event

Texas Shakespeare Festival. Kilgore. Every year thousands of people descend upon Kilgore to see revolving repertory performances of Shakespeare’s and other plays in the Van Cliburn Auditorium. The festival has received numerous awards and grants and brought quality entertainment to East Texas for more than 30 years.

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