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Natchez Little Theater patron retires

NATCHEZ — There comes a time in a man’s life when it’s time to retire and ride off into the sunset.

This is the story of Don Vesterse, a long time Natchez resident who will ride off to his hometown of Spring Grove, Minn., after 15 years of tackling the bright lights of the Natchez Little Theatre.

“My number one reason for retiring is family connections,” Vesterse said. “I want to get to know my grandkids, enjoy retirement and travel well.”

The Natchez Little Theatre will honor Vesterse with a retirement roast, dinner and reception beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday at the theatre.

Vesterse spent his time in Natchez by designing almost every set for the Natchez Little Theatre within a 15-year span and acting in various roles — from a mean scrooge in “A Natchez Christmas Carol,” to an out-of-whack tourist in “Southern Exposure.”

Don Vesterse accepts the 2008 Standing Ovation Award for best actor in a play for his role as Scrooge in “A Natchez Christmas Carol.” (Submitted)

Don Vesterse accepts the 2008 Standing Ovation Award for best actor in a play for his role as Scrooge in “A Natchez Christmas Carol.” (Submitted)

But the 71-year-old stage veteran also hopes to venture back to his hometown to take care of his 91-year-old mother, Lotus Vesterse, while working on his dream home in Spring Grove.

“I want to spend as much time with her as possible while she still has her memory,” Vesterse said. “I also bought a house in Spring Grove that will be a project for me, which is nice to have and keep me busy.”

Vesterse is no stranger to theater, having been one of the founders of Ye Olde Opera House, a community theater in Spring Grove.

“That started in 1979,” Vesterse said. “I came into my first play with a play book in one hand and a hammer in the other hand to participate in my very first musical called ‘Annie Get Your Gun.’”

In October 1997, Vesterse visited Natchez to tour its antebellum homes where he would meet Natchez Little Theatre Artistic Director Layne Taylor.

Although Taylor wasn’t involved with the theater at that time, he and Vesterse would soon work together managing several bed and breakfast facilities until they ventured into their true passion, community theater.

Taylor would soon take on the ranks of artist director, while Vesterse would become the general manager and technical director of the theater, where he was responsible for building sets for stage plays and maintaining the building and grounds.

“Don is responsible for the wonderful organization and state of our facilities today,” Taylor said. “Because of Don we were able to save so much money. People would go out and buy stuff and we had it all here, it just wasn’t organized.”

During his time at the theater, Vesterse has been awarded with several standing ovation awards in categories such as best director, best cameo actor in a play, best actor in a musical and best set design.

Vesterse has won eight out of the 11 best-set design awards given at the theater.

Tickets for the dinner, roast and reception are $25, while tickets for only the roast and reception is $10.

During the roast, community members will recall some of their most fond memories of Vesterse, Taylor said.

Reservations are required as seating for the dinner is limited.

To make reservations, call 601-442-2233 or visit natchezlittletheatre.org. Natchez Little Theatre is located on 319 Linton Ave.

 

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