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Volume 24, Number 10 — November 2017

Two Books Tell The Story of Theatre Bristol and Cathy DeCaterina

Samantha Gray, right, is the author of two new books celebrating Theatre Bristol and the life of Cathy DeCaterina, left. (Photo by Joe Tennis | Bristol Herald Courier)
Samantha Gray, right, is the author of two new books celebrating Theatre Bristol and the life of Cathy DeCaterina, left. (Photo by Joe Tennis | Bristol Herald Courier)

Labor of Love Translated Into Print

By JOE TENNIS | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | May 14, 2009

*** Published: May 7, 2009 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier. ***

BRISTOL, Tenn. Soon after Samantha Gray moved to Bristol in 2002, she discovered a story that "just begged" to be written.

It's a tale of a singer who started a kindergarten class in her home. Then, in teaching drama, that teacher started a children's theater that ultimately evolved into a community theater organization.

This is the story of Theatre Bristol and Cathy DeCaterina.

And having that story preserved in a book "is long overdue," said Mary Beth Rainero, a longtime Theatre Bristol supporter. "Had it not been for Cathy," Rainero added, "there would be no community theater in Bristol."

Gray, a married mother of three, is now the author of both "Directing Confidence: Cathy DeCaterina's Theatre Bristol" and "Let's Dress Up and Pretend: How Cathy DeCaterina's Love Built Children's Confidence and Theatre Bristol."

Dr. Fred Slaughter invented the idea to produce the "Directing Confidence" book for adults, said Gwen McAvoy Arnold, president of Theatre Bristol's board of directors.

"But Samantha came up with the plan to do a spinoff," Arnold added. "So, as it turns out, we have not one but two books."

"Let's Dress Up and Pretend" is a children's book companion to "Directing Confidence."

Smiling, at a recent ceremony, Slaughter introduced Gray to a group of 35 Theatre Bristol supporters as Cathy DeCaterina looked on from the sidelines.
"This is the story of Cathy's life," Slaughter said.

These books, also, tell a story of Bristol, as shown in the many photographs of actors on stage including schoolchildren. Photos are reproduced in color, alongside clippings from local newspapers. "The whole book is like a big caption to all the photos," Gray said.

Frank DeCaterina, Cathy's husband since 1950, said he is "pleased absolutely" with the project. "And I'm pleased with all the people who have backed-up Theatre Bristol."

Theatre Bristol grew out of the Tot-Teen Kindergarten class, which Cathy began in the DeCaterina home in 1961. From that class, Cathy started a performance organization, the Bristol Children's Theatre, in 1965.

Bristol Children's Theatre changed its name to Theatre Bristol in 1978, and Cathy continued to serve as the organization's executive director into the 1990s.

Over the years, as the theater grew, the DeCaterinas also continued to lend their support.

In more recent months, the couple, now both in their 80s, invested time and energy to help Gray complete the books.

Theatre Bristol supporters, in turn, donated money so that Gray could have time to work on the project as the author, while more money was donated to pay for printing costs at Pulp Printhouse in Bristol, Tenn.

All proceeds from book sales support Theatre Bristol, Gray said.

For Cathy DeCaterina, the hardest part of participating in the project was to recall stories from yesteryear, she said.

But, in hearing that, Gray simply smiled and called DeCaterina "amazing."

"If she didn't remember it right then," Gray said, "then she remembered it later."

YOU SHOULD KNOW

- Copies of "Directing Confidence: Cathy DeCaterina's Theatre Bristol" are $24.95 and "Let's Dress Up and Pretend: How Cathy DeCaterina's Love Build Children's Confidence and Theatre Bristol" are $17.95.

- Info: (423) 968-4977
- Web: http://www.directingconfidence.org
- E-mail: theatrebristolmarketing@gmail.com