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Community Theatre League welcomes 43rd season

Since its inception in 1976, the Community Theatre League has been a great asset to the area’s thriving arts scene. Year after year, those at CTL have continued to provide fantastic productions that stay true to the theater’s mission — entertaining, educating and enriching the lives of its audience members.

That’s a trend that will undoubtedly continue as the volunteer-driven organization gets set for its upcoming 43rd season, which kicks off this month.

“Everyone in the building — our full-time staff, our board of directors, our sponsors and our audiences — are excited to get this season kicked off,” said Seth Sponhouse, CTL’s executive director. “Over the past few seasons, we have been gaining momentum, new actors, new volunteers and building on our principal foundations.

“It truly feels as if our organization is ready to take off and enter the next exciting phase in our history,” he added.

This year’s season at CTL includes five productions in the Mainstage Series, five Moyer Studio Series shows, five Family Series performances, and three concerts.

Sponhouse said that picking out the shows for each new season is “one of the hardest jobs” the non-profit organization has. That’s because CTL always strives to put on a season that appeals to audiences, and entices local actors to audition.

This year, CTL took a slightly different approach in finding shows that check off those boxes, by using its social media platforms to ask followers what shows they would like to see on the downtown theater’s stage.

“We got a great list of shows — some obvious titles, some not so obvious — and took that list to our Production Planning Committee,” Sponhouse said.

The committee, which is comprised of board members, volunteers, directors and staff members, tries to look at the season in terms of what will be a box office success and what will appeal to the actors. This requires committee members to read through many scripts and have lively discussions about which productions will allow for the most successful season. After a few months of those discussions, it’s up to the board of directors to approve which shows make the final cut.

This year’s Mainstage season will see five exciting shows, including four that have never been performed on a CTL stage before — “Sister Act: The Musical,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Matilda: The Musical.” The only Mainstage show returning to the theater’s stage is “It Runs in the Family,” which is back by popular demand after being performed by CTL in the 2007-08 season.

“All five really are in the season for a different reason, which makes all five very exciting,” Sponhouse said.

Each of the shows selected for the Moyer Studio Series — “I And You,” “A Delicate Balance,” “The Last Five Years” “An Act of God” and “Barefoot in the Park” — are also coming to CTL for the first time this season.

“Our Studio season was picked and designed for audiences to see some shows that aren’t necessarily in the same vein as our MainStage productions,” Sponhouse said. “These shows sometimes deal with delicate subject matter, sometimes are more crass comedies, and sometimes contain strong language.

“We know that there is an audience for these shows,” he added. “Last season our Moyer Studio season practically sold out every showing of every production.”

Though each of the productions in a season are always challenging to pull together in their own right, the theater’s exceptional staff always finds ways to adapt a story to fit in CTL’s unique space, according to Sponhouse.

“That is sometimes the most exciting thing about producing in our space,” he said. “Stories almost always have to have a fresh, new take because we can’t always do what other theaters do because of the limited backstage area and the unique way our audiences are on three sides of the stage.”

Mentioning that the theater is a “magical and powerful way of losing and finding yourself all at the same time,” Sponhouse added that CTL always wants to put on shows that reflect the community’s varied backgrounds, ethnicities, family styles and beliefs.

“We strive to make sure our community sees themselves onstage and sees stories that help them in one way or another,” Sponhouse said. “The production may help them grieve, may help them escape for a while, or may simply bring them a smile.”

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