Arts

Something old, something new

Schenectady Civic Players turn 90; Troy Foundry Theatre begins

Artwork on the backstage door at Schenectady Civic Players in the Stockade.
Artwork on the backstage door at Schenectady Civic Players in the Stockade.

The Schenectady Civic Players, located in the Historic Stockade, are celebrating their 90th season in grand style. They are one of the oldest continuously operating community theaters in the country, offering a consistently well-rounded, often bold, slate of plays. Founded by Union College professors, who had the foresight to sell subscriptions to purchase the Masonic Lodge on South Church Street in 1928, they have a rich history, but they don’t rest upon their laurels.

The building underwent an architecturally sensitive renovation and expansion this summer, including central air conditioning, an oversized elevator, new stage lighting, updated infrastructure and bathrooms to make the structure ADA accessible and ready for the 21st century.

The theater costume archive is impressive – it holds close to 50,000 pieces, enabling the Players to produce compelling theater from every era. They have a large library of plays, which their play-reading committee scours to make suggestions for the next year’s productions.

Joe Fava, president of the board of directors, got involved in the late 1950s. “The only difference between what we do as community theater and professional theater is that we don’t get paid. I walked in as an 18-year-old kid, maybe younger, and somebody asked me if I wanted to work backstage, and I said, ‘Why not?’ People become invested and treat it like it was their own.

“When I first started, many of the people here were in their 70s and 80s. They had gotten their start in radio dramas. Did you know that radio, TV drama started in Schenectady with WGY? The first radio drama was broadcast in 1922, with our actors, so these people here were part of that.”

The Schenectady Civic Players present four murder mysteries a year in various area venues, as well as specials: look for Benita Zahn in Broads Who Belt on Dec. 15. The mysteries and specials are fundraisers to help pay for the building construction. The theater holds staged readings that are open to the public and free of charge, as well as five plays that make up their season.

Upcoming productions include Douglas Carter Beane’s As Bees in Honey Drown, a social satire, from Dec. 1-10, and J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, a classic thriller, from Jan. 26 –Feb. 4.

BORN IN TROY

The Troy Foundry Theatre, a new 501(c)3 theatre company, just completed its inaugural production of New World Order, reinterpreting six short plays by Harold Pinter, directed by David Girard. The plays were presented over two weekends in October: the first at the James L Meader Little Theatre at Russell Sage College, and the second at The Hangar on the Hudson, both located in Troy. There was no charge for admission.

The theater’s mission is “to explore the social issues of today by collaborating with a variety of artists from multiple disciplines to produce and perform new work and reinterpreted classics though the means of new writing, devising and immersive performances.” Or simply, We inquire. We mould. We create.

The company is jointly owned by all its founding members, including David Girard, whose work as an educator, actor and director is well known in the Capital Region. Girard is an adjunct professor at both Union College and Siena College, and has appeared with Capital Rep, the New York State Theatre Institute, Hubbard Hall, and serves as the associate artistic director for the Saratoga Shakespeare Company.

Sage theater graduates Emily Curro and Alexandra Tarantelli are also co-founders. Curro is the company’s artistic associate and holds a master’s degree in theater management from Florida State University. She has worked at the award-winning Williamstown Theatre Festival. Tarantelli is the company’s business manager and a senior fund accountant at LeverPoint Management.

We can expect more cutting-edge, interactive theater from the Foundry. The company employs professional directors, actors, designers and production staff, but is eager to build a community of citizen artists, with many opportunities for

volunteers, both in front of the house and backstage. S

For more information:

• The Schenectady Civic Players, 12 South Church Street, Schenectady (518) 382–2081 civicplayers.org

• Troy Foundry Theatre at troyfoundrytheatre.com

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