The cast of “Shrek the Musical” gathers after their performance at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville. The show was sold out each night and was the first production for the newly formed Goshen Theatre Project.
GLEN CARBON — Retirement is a time of leisure; a time of rest. It’s a time to reflect on your life and all of your accomplishments.
For one directing duo, retirement is just the next chapter in their already impressive and lengthy history of theater.
“I kept directing musicals after I retired,” said Elizabeth Enloe, who has taught music and theater in the Triad School District for decades. She officially retired in 2013 but couldn’t resist the call of the stage. She continued directing at Alton Little Theatre, where she first got involved back in the early 1990s.
However, living an hour away does have its drawbacks.
“I just decided I don’t have to drive an hour; I can direct from home,” she said.
That’s when she and Wendel — set to retire from teaching at the end of the 2016 school year — decided to start their own theater company.
“I knew Kevin was retiring soon and I spoke to some students and their parents to see what they thought about the idea,” Enloe said. “They absolutely loved it.”
Enloe said her skills align more with directing and Wendel’s align with fundraising. Put the two together (along with a nine-member board of trustees) and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a brand-new nonprofit organization.
They kicked around a few names but eventually settled on Goshen Theatre Project because it’s the land of Goshen, according to Enloe.
The group’s first performance, “Shrek the Musical,” opened in October 2015 at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville. The reception was extremely positive, selling out every single night of the performance. After that show, Al Canal, general manager and talent buyer for the Wildey Theatre, asked Enloe and Wendel if they would be willing to direct a Christmas show.
“I told Al that I couldn’t do another musical on such short notice, but I might be able to put together a variety show,” Enloe said. “We had a very nice set of performances including vocal solos, ensembles, church choirs and comic monologues.”
The reception and feedback about the Goshen Theatre Project has been nothing but positive. They performed at the Wildey Theatre three times in 2015 and are gearing up for the 2016 season with “Peter Pan,” which is expected to open Aug. 6-8 at McKendree University.
“I started doing theater in the early ‘90s and have done about 43 shows,” Enloe said.
In 2000, she and Wendel approached the principal at Triad Middle School, where they taught together, about starting a theater program. He gave them permission but said funding was on their shoulders. Not only did the program take off, it thrived. For the next 13 years, Enloe and Wendel were directing plays together and imparting their experience and knowledge to the next generation.
But Enloe said the whole reason they started the program was to give students an opportunity to express themselves and try something new. They also didn’t want the performances to be low-budget, 45-minute programs, but high-quality shows.
“We’ve always wanted to do elaborate experiences for the students,” Enloe said. “We want to do something that makes them say they had the best time ever.”
She and Wendel have directed musicals such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Guys & Dolls,” “Bye, Bye Birdie” and “Music Man,” to name a few.
Putting together an entire show — music, choreography, training and line memorization — is no easy feat. To pull off the seemingly impossible, Enloe creates a rigorous daily schedule for performers to follow. But she also wants them to remember to have fun.
“The process of putting a show together is so important,” she said. “And we want to create a positive experience where everyone, young and old, is welcome.”
She and Wendel also are putting together a Christmas performance at the Wildey Theatre, which opens Nov. 18.
While some are gardening and relaxing in a recliner during their retirement, Enloe and Wendel will be doing what they’ve always done: working together to teach members of the next generation what it means to follow their dreams.
For information, visit the Facebook page at Goshen Theatre Project.