Thursday, February 17, 2011


Above: Rehearsing for EPAC's "Of Mice and Men" are, from left, Timothy Scott Riggs, Matt Rush and Megan Baum.A first-edition book cover of "Of Mice and Men," and a poster for the 1939 film version.


EPAC at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre ushers in its 2011 season with John Steinbeck’s dramatic Depression-era masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” which runs from Feb. 24 to March 5. The show stars Tim Riggs as George and Matt Rush as Lennie – two characters who dream of finding a refuge from their lives as migrant workers. If you’re coming to the show on opening night, Thursday, Feb. 24, your ticket price includes the post-show Opening Night Celebration at Lily’s on Main, 124 E. Main St., Ephrata.


EPAC extends its grateful thanks to the 2011 season sponsors, Terry Bigler and Terry Kurtz; to the "Of Mice and Men" show sponsors, The Anne Brossman Sweigart Charitable Foundation and the Lancaster Literary Guild, and to the sponsors of the Feb. 24 Opening Night Celebration, Jenn Farringon and everyone at Green Mountain Cyclery! If you see any of these people (or members of these organizations), please tell them how much you appreciate their support of live, community theater!

Speaking of the Lancaster Literary Guild: There's still time to join the Guild for its Sponsor Night Preview of the show, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23. The event is a fundraiser for the Guild, and also helps support EPAC. Tickets are $30 each. See the EPAC website for more information.


EPAC’s upcoming production, “Of Mice and Men,” is set during the Depression – a time of economic crisis and personal struggle similar to that being experienced by so many in our community today. To help those in the community who may be struggling to put food on the table, EPAC is holding a food drive for the Ephrata Area Social Services Food Bank throughout the run of “Of Mice and Men.”

All EPAC patrons who donate two or more nonperishable food items will be eligible to enter a drawing to win dinner at The Olde Lincoln House, Ephrata, and two tickets to any 2011 EPAC show. If you’re not attending “Of Mice and Men” but still want to donate, visit the EPAC website or call the box office, (717) 733-7966, extension 1, to find out when you can bring food donations to the theater.


Student tickets for all performances of “Of Mice and Men” are just $10; a current student ID is required. Contact the EPAC box office, (717) 733-7966, extension 1, to reserve your seats. Seats are also still available for the school-day performance of the show, on Friday, March 4. Contact Stephanie Harley at for more information.


Ø John Steinbeck originally intended to call his 1937 novella “Something That Happened." He changed the name to “Of Mice and Men” after reading Robert Burns’ 1785 poem “To A Mouse …” That poem, in which the speaker expresses remorse that a mouse’s nest has been disturbed by a plough, contains the lines:
“The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men / Gang aft agley …” (which became the common saying, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”)

Ø John Steinbeck originally intended “Of Mice and Men” to be sort of a play in novella form. The structure of the book can be seen as three “acts” of two chapters apiece. Famed Broadway playwright and director George S. Kaufman contacted Steinbeck, soon after the publication of “Of Mice and Men,” about adapting the work to the stage.

Ø The first stage production of the work was written by Steinbeck and staged by Kaufman. Starring Wallace Ford as George and Broderick Crawford as Lennie, it opened on Broadway in November 1937 and ran for 207 performances.The play was revived on Broadway in 1974, with Kevin Conway as George and James Earl Jones as Lennie.

Ø The first film adaptation of “Of Mice and Men” (1939) starred Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie and Burgess Meredith as George, and earned four Oscar nominations (including Best Original Score for Aaron Copland, and Best Picture).

Ø In 1969, Carlisle Floyd wrote an opera based on the book; it is still produced around the country.

Ø February is a great month for EPAC to present this production. John Steinbeck was born Feb. 27, 1902, and the book was published Feb. 6, 1937.

# -- Merv Wright

Monday, February 14, 2011

EPAC veterans shine!

Above: EPAC veteran Eliseo Roman, portraying “Buddy Garcia,” rehearses with Georgi James (as “Olive”) for La Jolla Playhouse's world-premiere musical "Little Miss Sunshine." Photo from the North Country Times.

Below: Jonathan Groff in a scene from the film “Twelve Thirty.” Photo from the film’s official website.


Nonprofit community theater is many things … including a training ground for professional actors and Broadway stars. EPAC is no exception. Here’s what’s new with a couple of stellar EPAC veterans:

ELISEO ROMAN: Beginning tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 15), former EPAC actor (and Lancaster native) Eliseo Roman will be appearing in the world-premiere musical “Little Miss Sunshine” (based on the popular indie film) at the prestigious La Jolla Playhouse in California. You might remember Eliseo from such 1990s EPAC roles as Dr. Neville Craven in "The Secret Garden"; El Gallo in “The Fantasticks,” and Judas in “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” Now a New York City resident, Eliseo made his Broadway debut as Piragua Guy in the Tony-winning musical “In the Heights.” He also sings with Broadway Inspirational Voices.

“Little Miss Sunshine” was written by William Finn and James Lapine and is directed by Lapine (a Franklin & Marshall College graduate). Lapine wrote the book for the Stephen Sondheim musical, “Into the Woods,” being presented at EPAC April 28-May 14. The Finn/Lapine team also collaborated on “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a 2010 offering at EPAC.

You can see some rehearsal footage from "Little Miss Sunshine" on the website of the The San Diego Union-Tribune. Look for Eliseo at about the 2:20 mark.

JONATHAN GROFF: Fresh from his London West End debut, portraying Clifford Anderson in the play “Deathtrap,” Jonathan Groff can be seen in two upcoming films: “Twelve-Thirty” and “The Conspirator.”

Jonathan, who starred in “Batboy” and “Honk!” at EPAC, earned a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Melchior Gabor in “Spring Awakening” on Broadway, and has appeared as “Jesse St. James” on the TV show “Glee.” Jonathan also appeared in a benefit cabaret for the theater, and was a “prize” (well, a dinner with him) at the theater’s New Year’s Eve benefit raffle. EPAC appreciates Jonathan’s generosity in helping raise funds in order to put on future productions.

Jonathan received great reviews for his portrayal of Michael Lang in Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock." Starting this month, Jonathan can be seen as Jeff (a young man who affects all of the members of a broken family in the course of one week) in the Jeff Lipsky film “Twelve Thirty.” More information about the film (including a trailer featuring Jonathan) is available at the movie’s official website.

In “The Conspirator,” Jonathan portrays Louis Weichmann, one of the chief witnesses for the prosecution in the conspiracy trial surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. “The Conspirator,” a Robert Redford-directed film featuring Robin Wright and James McAvoy, is scheduled to open in April. More information about the film is available at the official website. You can see Jonathan briefly at about the 1:40 mark in the trailer for the film.

In addition, Jonathan recently came home to Lancaster County to visit his old middle school (where he first began acting). His visit was covered by the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era . Jonathan recently gave an interview to, in which he talked about “Deathtrap,” “Glee,” “Twelve-Thirty” and “The Conspirator.” You can read it here.

# -- Merv Wright

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Auditions and a benefit event


We all know that The Ephrata Performing Arts Center at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre has an extremely talented group of theater veterans performing in its shows. But the theater is always looking for new talent! Whether you're a long-time performer, or you've always had a hankering to try out but have never quite made it to auditions, EPAC wants to see you a couple of weeks from now.

EPAC will hold its general auditions for the second half of its 2011 season at the following times:

· 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26.

· Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 27.

· 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28

· 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 1.

Volunteers are needed to help run the registration table and assist in other ways during the auditions; if you can help out, please e-mail your availability (days and times) to

Those interested in auditioning can get more information about the monologue/song they should prepare by visiting EPAC’s audition web page.

These are the summer, fall and holiday-season shows being cast:

· Two boys are left in the care of their grandmother and aunt in 1940s Yonkers, NY, in Neil Simon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama “Lost in Yonkers.” The coming-of-age play, which opened on Broadway 20 years ago this month, runs June 2-11.

· EPAC reprises the razzle-dazzle of the popular Kander & Ebb musical “Chicago” from July 7-23. This Jazz Age tale of murder, fame and showbiz introduces us to merry murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, and their slick and clever lawyer, Billy Flynn.

· Four gay young men from a Baptist church in Dallas, Texas, search for acceptance in different ways in EPAC’s Monday, Aug. 8, staged reading of “Southern Baptist Sissies.” This play, part of the “EPAC On the Edge” series of staged readings (for adults only) was written by Del Shores (author of “Sordid Lives,” which EPAC presented during its 2006 season).

· A psychiatrist must discover why a teenage stable hand has attacked and blinded several horses in Peter Shaffer’s dark and complex Tony Award-winning play, “Equus,” being presented Sept. 8-17.

· EPAC’s Halloween gift to its audience this year is the campy, over-the-top “Evil Dead: The Musical,” set for Oct. 20-Nov. 5. A spoof of/homage to Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” movie franchise, the show concerns a group of students in a remote cabin, fighting off (and being possessed by) “Candarian demons.”

· The EPAC audience will go down “Memory” lane with the perennial feline favorite “Cats,” which is slated to run from Dec. 7-18). Which singing, dancing Jellicle Cat will be chosen to go up to the Heaviside Layer? Try out to find out!

To register for an audition time, fill out an EPAC audition form online.

EPAC Artistic Director Edward R. Fernandez notes that the age requirements for the casts of these shows are as follows:

· “Lost in Yonkers”: Two male teen actors, ages 13-15; other roles, adults ages 20 and up.

· “Chicago,” “Evil Dead: The Musical” and “Equus”: Ages 18 and up.

· “Cats”: Ages 13 and up.

· “The Evil Dead: The Musical”: Ages 18 and up.


All of the proceeds from the Women’s Club of Ephrata’s 60th Annual Dinner Dance and Auction will benefit EPAC’s Family Series production of the musical “13,” for those with hearing or sight impairments and those who are physically disabled. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12, in the Main Ballroom of the American Legion Home in Ephrata, with a cocktail hour (cash bar), followed by the dinner, dancing and an auction. Tickets are $60 per person; call Jean Brodt at 733-0318, or buy them in person from the EPAC Box Office or the Historic Smithton Inn Bed and Breakfast, 900 W. Main St., Ephrata. You can order tickets to the event by downloading an RSVP order form.

# -- Merv Wright

Thursday, February 3, 2011


(Above: It's time to buy tickets to EPAC's 2011 season! Below: EPAC Board President Terry Bigler accepts the recent Subscriber Party audience's thanks for his financial support of the theater (which now bears his name, along with that of the late Michael Sharadin).

Welcome to the Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s exciting and varied 2011 season, filled with new shows and old favorites, with edgy staged readings and family fare. And all of these marvelous productions will be presented under the banner of a brand-new name for this storied performing space.


You'll notice something different about the Ephrata Performing Arts Center during this 2011 season: The nonprofit community theater's name has been changed to the Ephrata Performing Arts Center at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre. The theater’s new name is a tribute to EPAC's Ultra Angel, the The Michael Sharadin & Terry Bigler Foundation – a longtime season sponsor here at EPAC. The foundation, named for EPAC Board President Terry Bigler and the late Michael Sharadin, recently made a 10-year, $400,000 pledge of support toward helping EPAC pay off the mortgage debt from the extensive 2003-04 expansion and renovations to the theater. Sharadin and Bigler’s generosity will be celebrated each time a wonderful production is performed at the theater that now bears their names.

You, too, can help EPAC to retire its debt. The theater needs an additional $100,000 to guarantee the full repayment of the mortgage, and a renewed capital campaign is under way to achieve that goal. For more information on how to contribute to the capital campaign (or to sponsor a show or advertise in the program) call EPAC at 733-7966 or visit the website (under “Support EPAC”).


You might say the 2011 season starts with mice and ends with cats; it opens later this month with the play “Of Mice and Men,” and ends with a holiday-season production of the musical “Cats” in December. The season’s first production, “Of Mice and Men” -- the stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s tragic novel of two migrant farm workers with a dream -- runs from Feb. 24 to March 5.

Opening night is just around the corner. Tickets are now available for individual productions, all of which are listed under the “Shows” menu on the website. Please consider buying one of the various season subscription packages, listed under the “Tickets” menu on the website. Subscribers enjoy discounts on ticket prices; priority seating in the theater; discounts on extra tickets; an invitation to the free, annual subscriber’s party/performance, and much more.


EPAC appreciates the Lancaster Literary Guild’s sponsorship of “Of Mice and Men.” You can join the Guild for its Sponsor Night Preview of the show, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23. The event is a fundraiser for the Guild, and also helps support EPAC. Tickets are $30 each, which includes the show and a dessert buffet during intermission. Checks should be sent to: The Lancaster Literary Guild, 113 N. Lime St., Lancaster, PA 17602. Please make checks payable to the Lancaster Literary Guild, and write "Of Mice and Men" in the memo line. Those who are friends of the Literary Guild’s Facebook page can find more information on this event at:


EPAC is known for its talented roster of regular performers, and for the yearly addition of new players upon the stage. On the EPAC website, you can find the cast lists for the first three productions of the season:

§ "Of Mice and Men" (Feb. 24-March 5):

§ The Family Series musical "13" (March 24 - April 2):

§ The Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods" (April 28-May 14):

You can find audition information for the second half of the season on EPAC’s website (under "Auditions"); there will be a separate blog post within the next couple of days about those auditions, so stay tuned!


Being a non-profit community theater, EPAC survives and thrives on its enthusiastic volunteers – from the actors to the ushers, from the board members to the scene painters, from the stage crew to the folks who put up flyers and publicize the shows. But a lot more help is always needed from those who love this performing arts center and want to help it run more smoothly. Do you have mad computer skills? Are you fabulous at fundraising? Are you event-planning skills beyond compare? Then please consider being a volunteer; EPAC can use all the talents you have to offer. You’ll love being a part of the EPAC family, and knowing you’ve done your part to help this community theater produce the great art you’ve always admired. You can start the process by visiting the link below and filling out a volunteer form. Thank you, in advance!

# -- Merv Wright