STATE COLLEGE - If Charles Dickens had been a playwright instead of a novelist, one of his classics may have been titled "A Tale Of Two Barn Playhouses."
O.K., that's more than a slight literary exaggeration, but Central Pennsylvania does have two converted barns that have served as theaters for more than 50 years. The professional Millbrook Playhouse in Mill Hall is just concluding its historic 50th season with holdover performances of "Nunsense A-Men!" tonight through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Cabaret.
And State College's Community Theatre made a historic move this spring after 50 years of producing and staging plays and musicals in the Boal Barn Playhouse in Boalsburg.
And coincidently, David Gritzner, who served as Millbrook's general manger for a summer three years ago, was hired by the SCCT when the position of executive director was created a couple of years ago.
He was given a mandate of having the "summer season" theater move to a year-round operation, which wasn't possible because the Barn had no heating for the winter months.
So discussions began with The State Theatre to stage shows in that venue during the winter months, while continuing to use The Boal Barn Playhouse for the summer months.
But according to Gritzner, it became apparent that the aging barn theater was becoming difficult for performers to work in, and the turning point was last summer's dwindling attendance figures, attributed mostly to patrons staying away because of no air-conditioning.
With The State Theatre's commitment to being a home for local arts performing groups, a deal was struck.
The State College Community Theatre found a permanent home in downtown State College.
"We can now perform year round," Gritzner said. "We now have the opportunity to offer matinees. Our location increases our appeal and credibility."
SCCT summer offerings began with "Born Yesterday" by Garson Kanin in May, with "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller in June, followed by Mel Brooks' Tony-Award winning musical "The Producers" in July.
THE MUSIC MAN (Aug. 16, 17, 23 and 24) - Meredith Wilson's paean to Smalltown, U.S.A., follows the fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the good folk of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boy's band. There's "Trouble" when Professor Hill falls for "Marian the Librarian." The feel good musical has "76 Trombones" leading the rousing score.
BEYOND THERAPY (Sept. 6, 7, 13 and 14) - Christopher Durang examines a quirky couple who go to separate therapists for advice. The guy doesn't know whether to take the suggestions of wacky female therapist, and the girl doesn't comprehend her therapist's advice to find an unpredictable new boyfriend. They finally learn to live beyond therapy in the Off-Broadway hit that moved successfully to Broadway.
AUGUST: ORANGE COUNTY (Sept. 20, 21, 27 and 28) - A dark tale of an Oklahoman family who meet after the father vanishes.
Shady little secrets, repressed truths and drugged up, scathingly acidic matriarch add up to unflinching drama and, surprisingly uproarious humor. Playwright Tracy Letts' drama won five 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Play.
MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT (Oct. 17, 18 and 19) - This musical is lovingly ripped from the classic movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." "Spamalot" retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table and features a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits and French people.
Two children' s shows will be added to the lineup, and "Scrooge the Musical" by Charles Dickens with words and lyrics by Leslie Briscusse will be produced in December.
As a community theater, Gritzner notes that there are open auditions for all parts, and volunteers are always welcome to work backstage.
For dozens of years, many theatergoers simply referred to the producing organization as the Boal Barn Playhouse. Gritzner understands that with a change in location comes a need for another change.
"The SCCT needs to be rebranded. It is not the Boal Barn Playhouse or the The State Theatre. It is the State College Community Theatre, a company that is actually based in State College."