Longtime Maryland Theatre volunteer 'retiring'

Mevis Shatzer says she has mixed feelings about leaving after 27 years

November 13, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • Mevis Shatzer just "retired" after 27 years as a volunteer at The Maryland Theatre, serving the past 23 years as house manager.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

Behind the scenes of the doo-wop show at The Maryland Theatre on Oct. 28, the staff and volunteers were marking a milestone of sorts, ushering in the end of an era.

Mevis Shatzer, who served as house manager for 23 of the 27 years she volunteered at the theater, was "retiring." After the performance, Shatzer's contributions to the theater were celebrated with a cake, accompanied by a big side of well wishes.

On top of that, Shatzer, 67, said it was "a very nice show — that was a nice sendoff."

Her last event was to have been the Mummers Parade, showing those who purchased seats in front of the theater where the restrooms were and offering support.

With the parade canceled, though, the Oct. 28 show was Shatzer's final curtain call.

Shatzer said she was introduced to The Maryland Theatre through George Jones, a neighbor, who used to be in the projection room at the theater when they showed movies.

After seeing a show, she agreed to become a volunteer and the rest is history.

"I came in as a young girl and am going out as an old woman," Shatzer reflected.

Over the years, Shatzer said, she made many wonderful friends through the volunteer group of ticket takers and ushers. She also got to know many of the patrons.

That prompted some tears as she thought of leaving the theater.

"I hate leaving it. I have very mixed emotions, but I just don't want the responsibility, the obligation. I just want the time to do other things," Shatzer said.

The Hagerstown native, whose maiden name is Gearhart, graduated from South Hagerstown High School in 1962. She studied practical nursing in Pittsburgh for a year, then worked several years at Avalon Manor Nursing Home before doing home care.

After retiring from that job, Shatzer started working part time in food service at Salem Avenue Elementary School, a job she still holds.

She and her husband, Don Shatzer, have been married for 47 years, have two grown sons who live in the area and three grandchildren. The Shatzers live in the North End.

During the theater season, which starts in about September, Shatzer said there might be one to four shows a week. During the Miss Maryland Pageant, Shatzer is there four nights.

"In the 27 years, I've missed very few shows," Shatzer said.

She's missed family events, but has occasionally asked another usher to take over for her.

"That's very rare," she said.

Shatzer said she has about 26 regular volunteers and about eight backups. They've become good friends and socialize outside the theater.

"I thank them from the bottom of my heart. They're so supportive," Shatzer said.

She usually arrived 90 minutes before a show, with her volunteers showing up 30 minutes later. Shatzer checked the lights and bathrooms, then assigned the volunteers their positions.

"We all love the old theater. Who wouldn't love this old building?" Shatzer said.

One of the perks to the job is the shows the volunteers get to see for free.

Shatzer started naming her favorites, including Jay Leno, Willie Nelson, For the Love of Doo Wop & Rock 'N' Roll, the oldies shows, country shows, Phyllis Diller and George Jones.

"It goes on and on — lots of wonderful shows. We help with the symphony also," Shatzer said.

Shatzer was looking forward to having more time with family and for reading, among other things, knowing that she won't have any trouble keeping busy.

"It's like something you want to do, but something you don't want to do," Shatzer said of her retirement, as she dabbed at her tears.

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