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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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Theatre 7's Tanya Haubner shows off some painted rocks that see created Thursday at the theater's office on North Water Street in Decatur.

DECATUR — Theatre 7 director Tanya Haubner may know her way around a theater, but she said she isn’t crafty when it comes to selling the show.

To introduce the community to the theater’s new productions, she discovered her inner Martha Stewart: “I don’t usually come up with ideas for marketing,” she said.

Her crafty side uncovered, Theatre 7 members have placed decorated rocks at various locations in downtown Decatur. The rocks are hidden under benches, in flower beds or among other rocks as part of a contest to win theater tickets.

“But we didn’t put any up in trees or places people can’t get them,” Haubner said.

When someone finds a painted rock, they simply take a picture of the rock and post the find on the Theatre 7 Facebook page. The deadline for entering the contest will be Oct. 1.

“We are putting their name in for a drawing for two tickets to the (first) show,” Haubner said.

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Some of Theatre 7's painted rocks are shown.

The community theater will open with “Young Frankenstein The Musical” on Oct. 12 at the Decatur Civic Center Theater.

About 30 rocks have been hidden throughout downtown Decatur for more than a week.

“They are near the library, Central Park, the streets around them and Merchant Street,” Haubner said.

A few of the rocks have already been found, but Haubner encourages the finders to rehide the little pieces of art so other people can find them and enter the contest.

“Rehide them downtown, otherwise people aren’t going to know where to look for them,” she said.

According to Haubner, the concept of the contest was ideal because it was simple and affordable for the theater troupe. In the beginning, she wanted to do something fun in which the entire community could participate as part of the Theatre 7 season kickoff.

“And to get our name out there for the shows,” Haubner said.

During a cookout to celebrate the beginning of the season, the director encouraged Theatre 7 members and their families to paint rocks with the hopes of getting others in the community as excited as they are about the upcoming shows. Haubner said she has seen how popular rock painting and hiding the little treasures has become.

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Theatre 7's Tanya Haubner shows off some painted rocks that see created Thursday at the office on North Water Street in Decatur.

With donated paints and brushes as well as the 2- to 3-inch rocks from Haubner’s yard, the endeavor was inexpensive.

The decorated rocks were painted with designs representing Theatre 7, including the face of Frankenstein, the comedy/tragedy masks, even a few brains. The words “Theatre 7” or “T7” are also painted on the back.

Haubner recruited the cast and others to help paint, giving them an opportunity to brush up on their creativity and add their talents to the marketing effort.

Theater 7's Emily Steele said she doesn’t believe her rocks were the most artistic, but she was willing to give it a go.

“One of my Frankensteins looks like a robot,” she said. “I’m a much better actor than I am a painter.”

Steele will be on stage as Frau Blücher during “Frankenstein.”

Millikin University theater graduate Brock Hayden will join her on stage as inspector Hans Kemp. Hayden painted an ornate castle on a hill with lightning bolts on his rock.

“Everyone else was doing hats and canes or Frankensteins,” he said. “My theater training in makeup may have helped, since we use really small brushes.”

The rock painting has been a way to encourage community participation with the theater and Theatre 7's involvement with the community.

“And to show them we really are Decatur’s community theater, not just a theater group,” Haubner said.

Steele said she was surprised by the attention the rocks have already received.

“I thought it would take some time, but it has caught on,” she said. “People like the challenge. It’s kind of like an Easter egg hunt.”

Hayden has been approached by others asking for hints on the rocks' whereabouts.

“I was just the artist,” he said. “I’m not the hider.”

Haubner said she hopes the rocks will encourage the community in joining the theater family, not just attend a show.

“We like to have fun,” she said, thinking about how the painted rocks might encourage another calling among those who find them. “Maybe you like to paint. We have lots of painting that needs to be done on sets.”

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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