Theater in 2013: What was new in the old year
When welcoming 2014, it’s customary to exclaim, “Out with the old and in with the new!”
But for local and area theater groups, the “old year” of 2013 produced some noteworthy “new happenings” which will carry over entertaining results into 2014.
NEW HOLIDAY ATTRACTION
Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble – After many years of presenting versions of “A Christmas Carol” with an occasional alternate selection, notably Dyan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” the professional ensemble created “A Very Special Christmas Special” as the 2013 holiday show. A nostalgic look at a simpler time, using Bloomsburg as the site for the “Christmas Spectacular” television show, the home-spun “Special” was a heartwarming musical variety show.
NEW ATTENDANCE RECORDS
Community Theatre League – In addition to a record number of summer theater camps for youngsters, CTL also saw “Annie” break the attendance record in 2013. Double casting the “little girls” in the orphanage and having Daddy Warbucks and his adopted “Annie” played by a real life father and daughter help boost the attendance. “Everyone’s favorite musical” edged out “Beauty and the Beast” as the highest attended show in CTL’s 35-plus years.
Open Stage (Harrisburg) – Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” was a popular holiday attraction but the professional OSH introduced a new musical adaptation for a month-long run in December. The young writer’s memory of his best Christmas ever while growing up in rural Alabama during the Depression proved to be fine family entertainment. Open Stage’s staging of this “new musical” was its Northeast USA premiere.
The Courtyard Theater (Selinsgrove) – The rather unique setting of a shopping mall is the home of a new theater which kicked off operations this past fall. Art Lieberman, producer and Bob Taylor, artistic director joined forces for The Courtyard Theater, situated near the J.C.Penney entrance at the Susquehanna Valley Mall.
With different configurations of the movable seats, the premier production was the overly ambitious “Sweeney Todd” in October, followed by the hilarious two-man comedy “A Tuna Christmas” in November.
NEW PUBLIC PRODUCTIONS
Lycoming College – While there is a full slate of productions in the Mary L. Welch Theatre during the academic year, a second venue went public in 2013, according to N.J. Stanley, associate professor and theatre department chair. A black-box theatre dubbed The Dragon’s Lair is the home for Lyco’s student-produced and -directed shows. For the first time, productions ranging from one-acts to full plays, will be open to the public free of charge. The former in-house shows exclusively directed by Senior Theatre students will resume in February.
The Actors’ Group – Artistic Director Tom Ryersbach switched stages in 2013. The Actors’ Group has moved operations to the Public Arts Academy (formerly the Coffee and Tea Room) on West Fourth Street in downtown Williamsport. Smaller shows, often serious themed dramas, which are not normally presented in the area are the forte of The Actors’ Group, which was founded in 2007 by Tom and Jeanne Ryersbach.
Community Arts Center – A new outdoor stage adjacent to the CAC was recently announced by Rob Steele, CAC executive director. With the growing popularity of First Friday, the outdoor venue is to be constructed between the CAC and the Sun-Gazette building. The arts community welcomed the new stage as another addition to the surging growth of new restaurants, shops and galleries in center city.
NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Millbrook Playhouse – After a banner 50th anniversary season, the board of directors of Mill Hall’s old barn theater hired a new artistic director for the upcoming summer season. David Leidholdt, of New York City, who had directed shows at Millbrook, began his duties in October for the annual holiday fundraiser. With a late start, Leidholdt is finalizing the 2014 lineup for Millbrook’s Main Stage and the downstairs Cabaret.