In 2007, Jesse Melton caught a bug. Well, he was bitten by one. As a teenager, the Kellyville High School student decided that he wanted to take a serious stab at acting—the problem was, there wasn’t much of an outlet for aspiring Oscar winners at the Home of the Ponies.
“We had a speech class, and that was about it,” he said. “I learned there that I enjoyed being in front of people, but we didn’t have an actual drama team.”
Not giving up so easily, he discovered the local Sapulpa Community Theater and got plugged in almost immediately. His first casting role was “In honor of mother,” a murder-mystery cooked up for Mother’s Day.
That was in 2007, and he’s been there almost ever since, winning awards and even serving on the board.
Now, eight years later, he’s making his directorial debut with the opening of Never Too Late, opening in February.
To hear him tell it, the decision to be a director was half-accident, half-desperation.
“I was planning to audition for this show, not direct it,” he explained. The directors they interviewed however, couldn’t seem to capture the spirit of the story in a way that would bring the cast together for a great show. It came down to him because the board believed he knew the story the best and could cast a great team, given his experience.
Melton says he’s glad he made the jump: “We’re in our third week of rehearsals, and I would absolutely do this again. We have just the best cast for this show,” he added.
He’s quick to attribute at least part of the great experience to some of his casting choices, particularly Harley Cartee, who has actually directed Melton in previous shows, and is able to offer help and experience in a unique way.
Still, the record of success shows itself. Melton has collected numerous awards in his careers thus far, probably the most prestigious would for his role in Elephant Man in 2012. Unfortunately, darker days were ahead.
In 2014, the 25-year-old the Sapulpa Community Theater was in danger of folding. The Tulsa World reported that because of rising costs and decreasing attendance and grants, $20,000.00 was needed to keep the intimate institution alive.
Diving into action, the theater began a media push to increase awareness and drive ticket sales. They encourage folks for season tickets and donations. They had a garage sale.
All the hard work paid off and the theater had it’s best season in years. Their October showing of You Can’t Take It With You” sold out all six shows in two weeks, and became their highest-grossing performance ever.
The momentum seems to be continuing. The theater just released a new identity design and logo in late December, and the air carries some great expectations for the future.
You can get tickets to any of the six shows of Never Too Late by calling the theater or purchasing them online. Sapulpa Times will have a review after the first showing in early February.