Whether it’s the Players Guild of Canton, with a professional staff, ambitious material and an active membership, or the smaller
Rainbow Repertory Theatre — Stark County theater has some impressive productions. And many of the companies, such as the ever-growing North Canton Playhouse, offer educational outreach and opportunities for the youngest of our future stars.
THE PLAYERS GUILD
With its senior status, the challenge, said Josh Erichsen, producing artistic director, is “presenting a new and fresh face to the community — not a lumbering dinosaur.”
He said the community has very high expectations when it comes to see a Players Guild production.
“The quality has to be topnotch,” he said. “That can be challenging as a nonprofit.”
Erichsen said he surrounds himself with the best people — people with varied backgrounds who can wear many hats. The guild chooses its plays and musicals based on what is relevant to people here.
“We’re creative with what we have,” he said. Erichsen said Stark County is rife with talented actors and singers.
“It’s always a humbling experience for us when we cast a show,” he said. “We have many talented people and only so many roles. It’s a great problem to have.”
He said the best part of community theater here — or anywhere, really — is that those involved are passionate, talented and not motivated by a paycheck, because all the performers are volunteers.
“They do it because they love it, and that translates on the stage,” he said.
Coming up next in the Guild’s 2010 season is “Annie,” in which the lead was cast in a contest. That show will be followed by the 2010 Theatre Summer Camp production of “Disney’s The Jungle Book.”
Volunteers always are needed, from assisting with costume or scenery departments to helping with administrative duties.
1001 Market Ave. N, Canton (330) 453-7617 www.playersguildtheatre.com
CARNATION CITY PLAYERS
Alliance’s community theater, the Carnation City Players reaches a milestone this month — 50 years of stage productions.
Kathleen Gray Farthing, president of the board of trustees, said the group will celebrate with a banquet May 7 that will be open to all.
“The thing that we emphasize the most here,” she said, “is that we’re very family-oriented.”
She said it is common to have many members of families participating in their productions. Most recently, their performances of the musical “Annie” included a mom and dad with their two daughters.
Incidentally, the 10-show run sold out every performance in the 220-seat Firehouse Theater. To meet demand, an extra matinee was added.
The big classic musicals help pay the bills, Farthing said. She noted that the Carnation City Players also performs the heavier dramas that aren’t for everyone, but are appreciated by theater fans and by actors who “want more meat.”
The all-volunteer actors come from across Northeast Ohio and include doctors, teachers, homemakers and students.
Their next play is a musical comedy called “Lucky Stiff,” by the same writers who wrote “Ragtime.” Farthing said that while the show may not be a well-known name, audiences can expect great music and fun. It runs June 11-12 and 18-20. For information, visit www.carnationcityplayers.org.
450 E. Market St., Alliance (330) 821-8712 www.carnationcityplayers.org
LOUISVILLE COMMUNITY THEATRE
The Louisville Community Theatre started 14 years ago, 15 years after the original Louisville Community Players disbanded. Don Marshall, current president of the board of directors, said he was acting in a Players Guild production along with Herb Crum when the pair decided they would revive the Louisville Community Theatre.
They began with spring, autumn and Christmas productions, along with a children’s musical in the summer, following their Drama Days day camp.
But Marshall said it was difficult to get a following for their plays.
“We were banging our heads against the wall,” he said. “We could charge $7 admission for a good-quality play and get five, 10 people a night.”
The answer, they eventually found, was dinner theater. Each February, the company performs weekends at Skyland Pines Banquet Center, where the ticket comes with dinner.
“We get 100 people a night in there,” he said. “We decided to offer what works.”
The summer camp still is going strong. Marshall said the theater holds auditions for children ages 8 to 16.
“We never turn a kid away,” he said, explaining that there’s room for all in the chorus. “Our biggest trouble is getting boys. Sometimes girls will play the boy parts.”
Anyone who would like to get involved, he said, can check out its Web site at www.lctstark.org.
Various locations (330) 323-1816 www.lctstark.org
NORTH CANTON PLAYHOUSE
In its 33rd season, the North Canton Playhouse continues to grow a following for both its main stage productions and youth musicals.
“We’ve grown out of Hoover,” said cofounder and artistic director Mary McManaway. “We need our own building, a lot more space.”
The group has collaborated with the Canton Palace Theatre to perform on the larger stage. Upcoming shows planned on the Palace stage include “The Wedding Singer” in July and “Sweeney Todd” in October.
“We had such good luck with “Rent,” and the Palace wants us back,” McManaway said.
She added that the Playhouse seems to be getting more actors — especially young people — turning out for auditions.
“For our youth musicals, we have 100 kids coming out,” she said. “I hope it’s because they all want to be doing arty things. Sports are wonderful, but to be well-rounded, you need the arts.”
A recent youth production of “Anything Goes” required the entire cast be able to tap dance. Even with that requirement, auditions drew about 50 kids.
The company also offers acting workshops that are well attended, as well as a Script to You Festival, where they perform the works of new writers, including many local college students.
McManaway said the North Canton Playhouse also enjoys a partnership with both Malone and Walsh universities.
“We’re definitely community-minded,” she said, “for 34 years.”
Next up will be the drama “The Crucible” on the Main Stage beginning May 21.
525 Seventh St. NE (inside Hoover High School), North Canton (330) 494-1613 www.northcantonplayhouse.com
RAINBOW REPERTORY THEATRE
There’s never been a social issue the Rainbow Repertory Theatre couldn’t tackle. Lois DiGiacomo, co-founder and artistic director of the theater, said the group’s goal is to improve the community through the arts.
“We can take the needs of any organization and make a show,” she said.
They do that with a creative staff of playwrights, actors, singers, directors and musicians willing to take their show on the road.
“Theater is anywhere. We go anywhere, anytime,” DiGiacomo said.
The Rainbow Repertory Company began in 1994 after the premiere of “The Fences Between,” a biographical play about the life of Dr. Norma Marcere, written by DiGiacomo and starring artistic director Kathy Mitchell. It played to more than 12,000 people in Northeast Ohio.
The troupe now partners with schools and social services organizations to create educational plays.
In addition to its funding from Arts in Stark, it’s the musical production arm of Rainbow that pays the bills. The Canton Cabaret Dinner Theatre performs to large audiences and uses the money it earns, in turn, to bring plays into the local schools.
“It’s a nice circle,” DiGiacomo said.
Other programs offered include residencies, workshops and seminars. Coming up this month is “The Music of Bobby Darin,” with Grant Holmes and the Pack Rat Band with Kim Karam and pianist Steve Dallas.
The performances will be at Tozzi’s on 12th restaurant in Canton Township, which has a dance floor. In June, “Divine Divas Singing,” a show of three women singers portraying the women singers of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s will be performed.
Traveling theater (330) 456-7397 www.rainbowrepertory.com
KATHLEEN HOWLAND THEATER
When the 2nd April Galerie and Studios relocated from its Sixth Street NW space to its current location on Cleveland Avenue, it had four times the space — and five times the rental cost.
“We needed to utilize every space of the building to make (the move) worth it,” said Todd Walburn, who owns the galerie with Brennis Booth.
They decided that the basement would be the perfect space for a traditional black box-style theater, one that is perfect for uncomplicated sets and productions.
Just one of the many creative spaces in the galerie, the theater is named for a popular local actress/ director who died in 2004.
“People come to us with proposals for plays,” he explained. “We generally work with five or six local groups.”
The space also hosts music concerts from time to time. Back this month for its second run is “Twelve Angry Men,” directed by Joe Martuccio and starring 12 local attorneys as the members of the jury.
Walburn said the play was hugely successful last year and he expects it will have sold-out performances this month.
The theater’s regular draw is the monthly performance of the Scared Scriptless Improv Comedy Troupe. Its show is the first Saturday of each month, with the exception of May this year. The group, which began performing in 2006 at the Players Guild, also performs during First Friday.
Inside the 2nd April Galerie & Studios 324 Cleveland Ave. NW, Canton (330) 451-0924 www.secondapril.org/theater
Murder Mystery Dinner Theater at Lolli’s started on a trial basis about 12 years ago and has continued to thrive. A now-retired Repository reporter, Jan Kennedy, had approached owner and chef Bobby Lolli with the idea for a mystery dinner theater.
Kennedy’s original scripts, based on other shows or plays, became a hit and still are the featured show every Friday night.
Shows change every three or four months — the current Friday show is “The Adams Family — New Moon.” Building on the successful Friday shows, Lolli recently added a Saturday night dinner theater with a different show and writer.
“They’re always comedies. I would describe it as silly fun,” Lolli said.
The dinner costs $38 and includes tip, tax and beverages. The entree is a choice of fish, chicken or vegetarian.
Lolli said he holds auditions for each production, and the actors come from throughout Northeast Ohio.
“They all have day jobs. They do it for the fun of it,” he said.
4801 Dressler Rd. NW Jackson Township (330) 492-6846 Friday and Saturday evenings (reservations are required) www.lollisrestaurant.net