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The Marsee name has been synonymous with the Youth Theatre of Hardin County for 38 years.
“I like to think of Mrs. Marsee as Youth Theatre’s fairy godmother,” youth theater participant Kaity Paschetto said.
Like Cinderella’s fairy godmother, Marsee costumes the kids, makes them feel good about themselves and sends them out on stage.
Bill and Betty Marsee got involved with the program when their daughter was in YTHC’s third show in 1974.
Betty is co-president of the board with her husband.
She credits her love for theater to her mother, who loved poetry and was involved in school plays.
“It’s in my blood,” she said.
Along with the business end of the theater, Marsee works with the costumes. Her mother-in-law, who owned Marsee Fabric Shop in Elizabethtown, taught her to sew.
Costumes, props and other items for the Youth Theatre are stored in a unit on the Marsee property and are now overflowing into the basement.
As she prepared for this season’s production of “Anything Goes” at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center at John Hardin High School, she was asked how many costumes she’s made over the years.
“Oh, mercy,” she responded.
Over the years she has fitted costumes for many who talk about not liking how they look.
“God made you just right. The main thing in life is to love God and know that he loves you,” she’ll tell them.
Other YTHC volunteers notice her dedication to the kids.
Carol Zagar has choreographed the show for more than 20 years and said Marsee holds YTHC together.
“She is the mother to all of those kids,” Zagar said.
“Even if she is having a bad day, you never know it. She is always loving and kind,” Zagar said. “She will work until she has almost made herself sick.”
At 77 years old, some might think it’s time to retire from YTHC but Marsee told Zagar she won’t because it’s the reason she gets up in the morning.
“She just loves seeing those kids do well and succeed,” Zagar said.
Marsee’s joy is seeing what the kids can accomplish during the run of a play. Some start out very shy and then shine on stage, she said.
“I really think it helps with shyness and self-confidence,” she said.
Many alumni come back to help with the productions.
Alumni also have accomplished great things, Marsee said. She equates her joy for the alumni to being proud of one of her own children. Some are in Hollywood, some perform at Disney World and others excel in careers outside the arts.
Last week she got to see one of her “kids” win a Tony Award.
Elizabethtown native Darron West, a 2012 Tony award winner, said Marsee should get 90 percent of the credit for his achievement.
It was during his time with YTHC he first learned the sound design skills for which he received the recognition.
One alumni she’s proud of is PAC director Bart Lovins.
“Betty helped shaped the man I am today,” Lovins said. “Sure she's costumed every child that has been part of YTHC all these years, but more than that she has provided each of them unconditional love and encouragement.”
The first year the YTHC performed at the PAC and made Peter Pan fly ranks near the top of her memorable moments.
But there are many more memories she cherishes.
“There are so many, you just get cold chills sometimes with what they’ve accomplished,” Marsee said.
Her passion is evident to the youth involved in the theater.
Marsee is full of life and love that makes everyone around her feel not only welcome but wanted, Paschetto said, adding it’s a feeling spread throughout the organization.
Everything Marsee does — from the costumes to concessions to keeping parents informed — is done with love. Her work is never done halfway and always serves the youth, Paschetto said.
“Kids walk in students and walk out stars,” she said.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.