Fittingly, Beth Domann’s day begins by setting a stage.
At 9:20 a.m. with fuel in hand, a large green tea from Kum & Go, and donning her signature polo shirt, the Springfield’s Little Theatre executive director brings down the grand curtain on the Landers Theatre stage.
She’s helping Missouri State University communications executive Nicki Donnelson prep for a video shoot.
“This curtain is only a couple years old,” Domann says of the nearly 40-foot-tall, thick red cloth. “This little old lady in Branson sewed it in her basement.”
As she walks to her second floor office, she passes a group from Pittman and Bingham elementary schools on a tour.
“Those are the best schools. You’re so lucky,” she says to the students.
Walking up the stairwell, Domann reminisces about living on the third floor for three years in the 1990s.
“You were like the keeper of the theater,” she says. “I used to walk this theater a lot with a bat.”
In her office, she rummages through files on her desk and answers emails on her phone.
Domann scans the obituaries in a stack of newspapers.
“Well that’s good,” she says with a sigh of relief. “No one today.”
The 109-year-old theater has had, of course, many of its supporters pass away throughout the years, and when they do, Domann says, a personal trinket of theirs is hidden in the theater.
Longtime supporter and frequent cast member Virgil Anderson died last year. On her desk, Domann prominently displays a horn he used in the 1978 production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and a pair of his cowboy boots is tucked away under her desk.
“Sometimes I like to just put them on and walk around,” she says.
At 10, she heads to the weekly staff meeting.
Domann listens intently to her employees’ updates. Most of the meeting is focused on Marketing Director Alex Scranton. It’s his second-to-last day working at the theater. Domann sarcastically quips she’s “not bitter at all.”
“All of my files are very organized,” Scranton assures Domann.
It’s an unusually high season of turnover, she says.
“I’ve been doing a fabulous job ignoring it,” Domann says with a laugh.
Education Director Lorianne Dunn reviews volunteers and corporate supporters the theater is considering honoring at the upcoming Frannie Awards and provides updates on the theater’s Next Step capital campaign. The theater is hoping to raise more than $1 million to tuck-point the outside of the building, renovate the inside and fix a water leak in the basement. In addition, they need $1.3 million to purchase the historic McDaniel School. The theater just started leasing the space for its child theater classes.
Domann adds she’s looking for a used lawnmower to purchase to keep up with the yard work around McDaniel.
With a smirk, Domann says she needs a self-propelled mower “to make it easy for a second grader to push it.”
It’s not the first big laugh, or the last, Domann shares with staff and friends today.
She has to cut the meeting short to head to an 11 get-together at the East Sunshine Panera with Sally Baird. She’s the “matriarch of the arts,” in Domann’s words.
Baird and Domann, clearly longtime friends, talk politics – both in the federal government and the local arts scene.
Transitioning to updates on the capital campaign and renovations, Baird asks, “What would downtown be without the Landers Theatre?”
“Hello!” Domann exclaims, throwing her hands in the air. “It’s the cornerstone.”
At 12, Domann heads across town in her white Prius to meet up with women from the STL Guild, a group of volunteer fundraisers who run concessions and raise support for the theater. They meet monthly at Ocean Zen for lunch and dominoes.
She’s greeted with a table full of smiles.
“When do tickets go on sale?” asks Linda Waltz, about the new season.
Domann, laughing nervously, replies, “Soon.”
“You’re going to do ‘Cabaret’?” asks Joyce McKee. “That’s my favorite.”
The group discusses the renovations and staff changes, but the conversation quickly turns to Domann. The group is clearly smitten with her.
“I could come see you anywhere,” Marilyn Bracy says. “I love it.”
Domann talks about her home in Strafford, where she has 15 acres with cows, chickens, a swimming pool and a large workshop. She likes to build tables and magical illusion sets, and her next big project is restoring her grandfather’s boat. On a nice day, she says, you might see her driving her dad’s Corvette convertible she restored.
“It’s just peaceful out there,” she says.
The group is off to play dominoes at 1.
“Is it my turn yet?” Bracy asks.
“No!” Domann, who’s been watching the group play, says in her typical playful manner. “Touch that domino and die.”
The ladies erupt into laughter.
Domann leaves the women to their cocktails and heads to McDaniel School to check on the “Trolls” summer class. After a weeklong class learning choreography, lyrics and lines, the kids will perform the musical.
It’s her first time in the building with classes in progress.
“Now that you have kids in here, it’s magnetic,” Domann says to Tonya Forbes, who’s manning the front desk. “My hair is standing on end.”
Domann pops in on a group of kids learning choreography to the song “September” and immediately starts bopping her head along with the beat. Her smile is contagious.
“You guys were amazing at your dancing. It made me want to dance, but I didn’t want you to laugh at me,” Domann says.
Before leasing the McDaniel building, kids classes and rehearsals would take place on the third and fourth floor of the theater.
“This takes the wear and tear off the building somewhat,” she says, adding: “And now I don’t have kids tap dancing over my head.”
At 2:30, Domann heads back to the office to catch up on emails and meets with staff to nail down details for the theater’s capital campaign.
By 4:30, she’s headed to an early dinner at Dugout Bar & Grill with former theater trooper Sarah Johnson, who just moved back to the area after living in Los Angeles.
“You’re kind of an adult now,” Domann says to Johnson.
“I was more grown up then than I was now,” Johnson replies back with a laugh.
Dinner turns to drinks, which leads to a few more drinks.
The sun long set, Domann finally heads home at 9:30. With her signature singsong voice she says, “It’s been a fun day.”
She’s leading nonprofits through open-book management — a journey that started with her own charity as a case study.
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