Thursday, December 5, 2013

Funny, poignant 'Fiddler' balances faith, family, philosophy

Tevye has a lot on his plate.

Beyond keeping up with his job as a milkman and striving to maintain a good reputation in his little Russian village of Anatevka, Tevye must face a world that is rapidly changing.

He strives to adhere to his Jewish faith and take care of his family, which includes a wife with a mind of her own, and five daughters – three of marriageable age.
Tevye hopes his daughters will be paired with suitable husbands through the local matchmaker – as tradition dictates. But the heart wants what it wants; his daughters fall in love with men Tevye would never choose for them, and insist on defying their dad.

In addition to all that, he and his family are living in early-20th-century Czarist Russia, where Jews are facing increasing discrimination – and even threats of violence and expulsion.

What’s a man with all these problems to do? Sing about them, of course!

And sing he does. Tevye is a big-hearted, funny philosopher who is devoted to God, family and community. As a musical-theater character, he has a lot to puzzle out in front of the audience, and a lot to get off his chest. He sings about his dreams, his fears and his attempt to balance all his challenges – like a fiddler perching on a roof.

“Fiddler on the Roof,” which opened in 1964, won nine Tony Awards. It was the first Broadway run of a musical to hit the 3,000-performance mark. For many years, it was the longest-running musical on Broadway. Since then, it has had four Broadway revivals and countless tours, and has become a favorite of high school, community and professional theater groups.

This is all a testament to the staying power of this popular, poignant, funny musical that’s full of memorable showtunes from “If I Were a Rich Man” to “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”

Pat Kautter, a veteran director and choreographer in local theater, has assembled a cast of EPAC veterans and new faces for the “Fiddler” production opening tonight at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.

 And starring in the show is EPAC’s own artistic director, Edward Fernandez, who moves from his usual spot in the director’s chair to the stage, bringing Tevye’s unique view of the world to life. Those of you who know Ed know he has a personality every bit as big as Tevye’s – so his portrayal of the milkman is a match made in heaven.

“Fiddler” tickets are selling briskly, and some performances are selling out. So if you want to experience this final show of the 2013 season, be sure to visit the EPAC website right away to find showtimes and order tickets, or call the box office at (717) 733-7966. Tickets to the show, which runs through Dec. 21, would make a great holiday gift for a loved one! Don’t miss it!

Merv Wright

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Extraordinary Give: Increase impact of your EPAC donation Friday

Lancaster County’s Extraordinary Give event takes place this Friday. It’s an EXTREMELY important day for the Ephrata Performing Arts Center, and it’s easy to understand why.

A recent editorial in the Intelligencer Journal/LancasterNew Era called the Ephrata Performing Arts Center “a theater that consistently punches far above its weight.” In other words, EPAC may be a nonprofit, community theater, but it presents high-quality, visionary work that always has audiences buzzing.

That editorial writer knows what everyone who comes to see the musicals and plays presented at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre knows: EPAC truly lives its mission of producing “THEATER THAT MATTERS,” show after show, year in and year out.

Producing theater you can’t see anywhere else in the area takes the kind of creativity that burns in the staff, creative teams, actors, stage managers, crew members, technical artists and various volunteers who put it all together and place it before the audience year-round.

But it also takes money. Frankly, it’s hard for artists to talk about money, and to ask for money. But the fact is that EPAC needs funds to continue to entertain you, to move you, to make you laugh and to make you think with the plays and musicals the EPAC family works so hard to bring to you.

Through the Extraordinary Give, the Lancaster County Foundation offers a date and place for hundreds of area nonprofits to earn donations, from midnight to 11:59 a.m. on November 22. As one of those nonprofits, EPAC is then eligible to receive part of an ADDITIONAL POOL OF MATCHING FUNDS, BASED ON HOW MUCH IS DONATED TO US ON FRIDAY.  If we earn 1 percent of the total donations given to all organizations that day, we’ll receive an additional 1 percent of that pool of matching money.

So, on that day of days, the more money you give, the more money EPAC gets toward fulfilling its mission as an arts organization.

Do you see why that day is SO VERY IMPORTANT to this theater? It’s not often that your donation to EPAC can be instantly multiplied in its impact! The Extraordinary Give offers you that opportunity.

So, please set aside a few moments this Friday, Nov. 22 – you have 24 hours in which to schedule those moments! – to make at least the minimum donation of $25 to EPAC through the Extraordinary Give. We need your help, and EPAC will be so thankful, blessed and appreciative to have your support that day!!

Please bookmark the EPAC donation page, so you’ll be all ready for the event on Friday.

After you make your donation, please follow our progress on the Extraordinary Give leaderboard all day long, and follow our progress on Facebook, Twitter and other social media that day.

In the end, YOU will be the beneficiary, since the money EPAC earns will go toward producing all the shows you’ll enjoy here, and maintaining the Sharadin Bigler Theatre so you can watch those shows in comfort.

Thank you, in advance, from the whole EPAC family!

-- by Merv Wright, EPAC fan and volunteer

Friday, October 25, 2013

'Assassins': Dark mirth and a musical meditation on our history

"Assassins" runs now through Nov. 2 at the the Sharadin Bigler Theatre

Have you ever thought about why some of America’s infamous assassins, and would-be assassins, did what they did?

Playwright John Weidman and composer Stephen Sondheim obviously did. They thought about it A LOT. The result is an edgy, scary, profound and darkly funny piece of musical theater called “Assassins.”

In part, the show is about American history, seen through an artistic lens, with plenty of artistic license. Where else but in a piece of art could you see assassins from varied periods in American history interacting on stage, all at once, and discussing their deeds and motivations with each other?!?

In part, the show is a meditation on the so-called American Dream, and what happens when that dream is not fulfilled in the life of someone who’s emotionally or mentally unbalanced.

In part, it’s a chance for assassins from John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln) to Leon Czolgosz (McKinley) to Charles Guiteau (Garfield) to explain their actions to the audience and to try to give their lives posthumous meaning (though three of the would-be assassins are still alive, off stage).

And, in total, it’s a marvelous evening at the theater. It’s especially so with the FANTASTIC cast assembled by director Edward Fernandez, and the voices and music directed by J.P. Meyer – who also happens to be EPAC’s board president. I was completely blown away (so to speak) by what I saw, even during the rehearsal process!

A confession: “Assassins” is probably my favorite show. The book, music and lyrics are amazing – so much more so because, before this show existed, it would be hard to have imagined someone creating such a delightful musical out of such dark material.

This show is definitely not for kids. There are very scary, unhinged individuals on stage, and there are guns going off at regular intervals (and capital punishments from a bygone era). It’s about famous killers, after all.

But for those who love to see a show that makes you laugh, tear up and think, while having the time of your life getting to know a group of verrrrry interesting individuals –– “Assassins” is right up your street!

This show is not performed very often; looking at the Sondheim Review’s list of productions around the country, EPAC’s is one of the very few being presented this year. How very, VERY fortunate we are to have this theater right in our community … a theater that brings us shows like this, while also delivering new takes on classics like “Fiddler on the Roof” (coming in December).

The cast, crew, musicians and creative team are almost halfway through the run of “Assassins.” Please honor this rare gem they’ve created by coming to the Sharadin Bigler Theatre to see the show before it ends its run Nov. 2. Call the box office at 717-733-7966, or visit the website to order online. While you’re there, check out the fantastic season EPAC has in store for you in 2014!

-merv wright

Saturday, September 14, 2013

'The Glass Menagerie' will touch your soul

"The Glass Menagerie" is a little more than halfway through its run.
You still have six chances to see this wonderful production of this Tennessee Williams classic, which illuminates the human condition and touches the soul.
The show has earned its rave reviews from critics and audience members ... now it's up to you to REWARD yourself with a ticket to this show, and let this wonderful production wash over you.
Director Rich Repkoe and the creative team have put together a fantastic production that holds surprises for audience members who THINK they've seen "The Glass Menagerie" before. If you love this play, as I do, you will consider it a gift to be able to see these actors bring Williams' story to life.
I felt so privileged to be able to see such a high-quality production of this show, which brings new layers of understanding to these characters and their story, right here in Ephrata. Right here at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre. 
All four talented "Glass Menagerie" actors -- Timothy Riggs, Karyn Reppert, Megan Baum and Brian Viera -- are perfectly cast. They will absolutely transport you to the Wingfield home for a couple of hours, and make you privy to their relationships, challenges and personal concerns. And they will break your heart, get under your skin and have you thinking about their performances for days.   
Tennessee Williams understood human behavior as well as any playwright around; his prodigious gifts are evident in this play. The dialogue will make you laugh, and the story will put a lump in your throat -- and probably tears in your eyes -- before the actors take their bows.
You can read some of the great reviews of the show are the links shared here.
"The Glass Menagerie" runs through Sept. 21, with shows Saturday night, 9/14, at 8; Wednesday and Thursday, 9/18 and 9/19, at 7:30; Friday, 9/20, at 8, and Saturday, 9/21, at 2 and 8 p.m. 
Visit EPAC's newly redesigned website, or call (717) 733-7966 for tickets.
And don't forget your Kleenex!

 - merv wright

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Guys & Dolls": A lively, tuneful, funny American classic

Bob Checchia, Lynne DeMers-Hunt and Nick and Stacia Smith are Nathan Detroit, Miss Adelaide, Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown in EPAC's "Guys and Dolls."

It's no surprise that Entertainment Weekly recently declared "Guys and Dolls" the most popular American musical of the past 100 years. It's no fluke that the show has been revived on Broadway nearly every decade since it opened in 1950. And it's no accident that this lively and tuneful musical has won a bushel-and-a-peck-full of Tony Awards over the years.

As part of its 2013 season of honoring American playwrights and composers, the Ephrata Performing Arts Center is presenting this high-energy, big-hearted show beginning tonight, on stage at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.

Watching one of the final rehearsals of the show last week – a show I've seen many times on stage and on celluloid – I was reminded what a well-crafted, funny and thoroughly delightful show "Guys and Dolls" is.

I'm glad the cast couldn't hear me quietly singing along with every one of those catchy, clever Frank Loesser showtunes – from the title song to "Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat," and from "Adelaide's Lament" to "Luck Be a Lady."

And despite having seen this show so many times, I found myself laughing at a lot of the dialogue. I was surprised all over again by the clever conversations and assorted bon mots book co-writer Abe Burrows created for gambler Nathan Detroit, nightclub star Miss Adelaide and the circle of colorful characters with whom they pal around. And watching Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson meet cute, flirting as they swap Bible verses, is a delight.

As always, I was reminded how great this theater troupe is at wrapping its artistic heart around a well-worn American classic – putting that unique EPAC spin on the proceedings and bringing out new flavors in the piece. Under Ed Fernandez's direction, with choreography by Irving Gonzalez, this big, talented cast fills the stage with dancing gamblers and slinky “Hot Box Dolls,” marching missionaries and hot Havana couples gyrating to a Latin beat.

The Grand Themes of Relationships are played out in the main couples’ interactions: Nathan and Adelaide, a guy who can’t commit paired with a doll who can’t help lovin’ that man, along with Sky and Sarah, a case of opposites attracting.
 You’ll love the supporting characters, too, from gambler Nicely Nicely Johnson to Big Jule the Chicago thug to mission counselor Arvide Abernathy.

My advice: Even if you’ve seen “Guys and Dolls” before, open your heart to this EPAC production. It’s a feast for the eyes, the ears and the funny bone. And if you've NEVER seen this show before – what in the heck are you waiting for?

Call (717) 733-7966 to secure a seat in the theater and be thoroughly entertained with an American classic in the hands of a committed group of actors, crew and creative team members. Enjoy!

The show runs evenings through Aug. 10, with a matinee added on closing day.
Thanks to 12:34 MicroTechnologies for sponsoring the show; to Dr. Lew and Michelle Storb as opening-night sponsors, and to Drs. Karen and Evan Cooper and Dave Dierwechter and Marcia Stoner for sponsoring  the after party.

- Mary Ellen ("Merv") Wright

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Make summer theater memories at EPAC!

The cast of EPAC's "Brighton Beach Memoirs" -- a perfect play to see on a summer night.

When I was a kid in State College, PA, my parents took me to a lot of theater in the summer.  I thank my lucky stars so often that I had parents who gave me such a wonderful gift – a gift that has kept on giving, and led to my lifelong love of theater.  If we weren’t going to see a summer-stock or student production on the Penn State campus, we were headed to the old Boal Barn Playhouse to see some entertaining, community-theater production of a drama, comedy or musical.

 My dad would pick up the tickets in the silo, converted into a box office. We’d sit together in that little theater-in-the-round converted barn, and fan ourselves with our programs against the heat.  If a musical was playing, the pit orchestra would perform from the old hayloft.

 It was magical.

Not long after I moved to Lancaster more than a quarter-century ago, I discovered what was then called the Ephrata Playhouse in the Park – now EPAC.  In its pre-renovation days, the theater reminded me a lot of the Boal Barn -- a converted barn venue that presented great summer fare for the theater lover. I was even lucky enough to perform in the ensemble of one of those shows about 20 years ago, and forged friendships with members of the EPAC family that I treasure to this day.

Now, I’m a volunteer  for EPAC, as well as an audience member. Whenever I walk into the theater – even though it has been renovated and air-conditioned and its season expanded to a year-‘round performance schedule –  the place still gives me a nostalgic feeling about my childhood summer nights, spent at the theater with my parents.

 (Heck – I can even talk about the Boal Barn with folks like Tricia Corcoran, an EPAC regular, and mother of Quinn Corcoran – a cast member in EPAC’s current production, “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”  Tricia performed at the Boal Barn Playhouse when she was a student at Penn State!)

Having a beautifully written play like Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” for older kids and their parents to see together in the summer is a true gift to the community – as is the offering of theater events appealing to a wide range of tastes, from “Guys & Dolls” to “Angels in America,” and from “Fiddler on the Roof” to “Assassins.”

The cast and crew members who volunteer hours and hours of their time to this EPAC enterprise want you to see what they’ve created together. They want you to step up to the ticket window, to buy a cold drink and a snack, to settle into your seat with your friends and loved ones, and to have a shared summer experience around the theater stage.

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” is a perfect summer show – funny and touching, and filled with well-drawn characters, the mysteries of the cusp of adulthood, and familial love and conflict.

You have five more chances to see it, in air-conditioned comfort  – Wednesday through Friday nights, and both a matinee and nighttime show on Saturday. Visit the website, or call (717) 733-7966 for tickets.

Make some summer memories at the theater today. EPAC is the perfect place to do that.

-- Mary Ellen (“Merv”) Wright

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

EPAC veterans shine at "Pirates" benefit

Johnathan Groff, center, and Eliseo Roman, to the right of Eric Idle, performed at the "Pirates of Penzance" tribute gala in Central Park June 11.

Eliseo Roman is on the right, among those taking bows after "Penzance."

Is Eliseo Roman (center background) having a moment with Glenn Close?

Jonathan Groff takes a bow at the end of "Pirates," and gets some cheers from Martin Short in the background!

Check out these photos of the curtain call of "The Pirates of Penzance" performance/gala/tribute to the late Nora Ephron in Central Park on June 11. Jonathan Groff played Frederick, and Eliseo was in the ensemble.

Both men are Lancaster County natives, and both are alumni of Ephrata Performing Arts Center. 

Jonathan, whose EPAC performances included "Bat Boy" and "Honk," went on to Broadway in "Spring Awakening," and has done film and TV. He'll soon star in a new HBO show, set in San Francisco.

Eliseo, who performed in "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Secret Garden," "The Fantasticks" and "Anything Goes" at EPAC, went on to Broadway, as well, in "In the Heights" and "Leap of Faith." He performs with "Broadway Inspirational Voices," and has done recent performances in L.A. and Atlanta of new musicals "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Zorro."

Meryl Streep hosted the Central Park "Pirates" tribute to Ephron, which also starred Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Martin Short and Eric Idle. Check out additional photos from the curtain call on that magical night!

-- Merv Wright

Terry Bradshaw pays tribute to Ephrata -- AND EPAC!

EPAC got a shout-out from a Super Bowl winner!
At about 1:50 on his "Today in America" segment on Ephrata, host Terry Bradshaw pays tribute to the professional quality of EPAC's performances.
You can see the video here.

You can learn about Terry Bradshaw's "Today in America" series here, and find out when and where it airs on television at this link.
Thanks, Mr. Bradshaw!

Friday, June 14, 2013

'Memoirs' celebrates comedy, drama in family life

"Brighton Beach Memoirs" runs now through June 29 at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.

There's a lot of drama, and a lot of comedy, in the life of young Eugene Morris Jerome of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

He's a young teen who has started to notice girls, and think about them in a special way. He learns about adulthood from his barely-adult older brother, Stanley. He's kept hopping with family chores, assigned by his stressed-out parents, Kate and Jack, and contend with a crowded house. Because of his uncle's death, his Aunt Blanche and her two daughters Nora and Laurie -- Nora is quite appealing to the maturing Eugene -- are sharing the Jerome residence. 

Eugene dreams of playing for the New York Yankees, but also loves writing -- documenting the everyday dramas occurring in his household. Seen through Eugene's eyes -- as the narrator of the action -- the audience can appreciate how momentous a fight between siblings, a secret about having trouble at work, or even the loss of just $17 in a household on a shoestring budget, can be.

This is the world of Ephrata Performing Arts Center's "Brighton Beach Memoirs," which opened last night and runs through June 29 at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.

Though the play is set before World War II  -- as I watched the final rehearsal on Wednesday, I kept realizing that the older teen girl in the play is about the age my own mother would have been in 1937! -- many of the familial events it chronicles are universal, and are probably happening in many recession-recovering households today.

Director Michael Swanson has assembled a wonderful cast that brings Neil Simon's well-crafted play to life in a funny, touching, very HUMAN way. They'll have you laughing at their characters'  human foibles one minute, and crying the next as your heart breaks for them in their life struggles.

When "Brighton Beach Memoirs" premiered on Broadway 30 years ago, many critics commented that Simon's writing had turned a corner: He was no longer a writer of joke-after-joke plays; his work had gained a layered maturity and a depth that would carry him through the three plays of his "Eugene" trilogy, and result in his Pulitzer Prize for "Lost in Yonkers" (a recent hit at EPAC).

You won't want to miss this heartwarming play; you just might see a bit of your own family in it!

Call (717) 733-7966 for tickets, or visit the website for more information.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Life and laughter on 'Avenue Q'

You know how every problem that occurs on “Sesame Street” seems to be solved within five minutes? If a Muppet is going through some stuff, there’s a solution or advice waiting just around the corner from a fellow Muppet, a cast member or a visiting celebrity.

Life’s not so simple on “Avenue Q.” Princeton has a B.A. in English, but has not yet found his purpose in life. Kate Monster is a kindergarten teaching assistant who wants to open a school for monsters someday. Rod is a Republican banker who’s keeping a secret even he doesn’t really know. Trekkie Monster likes to spend time surfing the Internet … for porn. And Gary Coleman has long left acting behind and works as a building superintendent.

These and other characters – some of whom are portrayed by humans and some of which are puppets brought to life by their human friends – sing about their dreams and their struggles in the musical “Avenue Q.” The show deals with such issues as sexual identity, unemployment, racism and relationships, but does so in a warm and funny way.

The book, the songs and the puppetry come together to make this an absolutely original, hilarious musical. When I saw it a few years ago, I remember my stomach hurting from laughing so much. I watched part of one of the recent rehearsals of the Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s production of “Avenue Q,” and remembered why this show is so delightful, clever and funny. The cast is doing a fantastic job!

“Avenue Q” opened last night at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre. Be sure to treat yourself to this great (but ADULT) night of theater. Keep in mind that life is full of things that aren’t very pleasant … and that life contains sex. And KEEP THE KIDS AT HOME. This show is definitely about grown-up stuff.

But if you’re a grown-up (and don’t mind puppets having sex, briefly, on stage – it’s hilarious, believe me!), you will love this show!

You can read more about the show here, in today's Entertainment Lancaster section of the Intelligencer-Journal/New Era.

The show runs through May 18. Order tickets on the web site or by calling 733-7966.

                       -- merv wright

Monday, April 22, 2013

Summer theater camp, acting workshop to inspire creativity

Numerous studies have shown that participating in theater activities enhances everything from academic performance to reading comprehension to self-esteem in young people, according to the American Alliance for Theatre & Education.

This summer, the Ephrata Performing Arts Center will give students in the area the opportunity to get all of these benefits, and so much more, from participation in the arts.

The Center Stage Theater Camp, for students entering grades 1-7, will inspire campers’ creativity, stretch their imaginations and teach them new ways of telling stories – through theater.

Young people can attend one, two, three or four weeks of the camp (fees range from $150 for one week to $525 for all four weeks), which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, July 8-Aug. 2. The camp experience culminates with a showcase performance of “Guys & Dolls Jr.,” at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3!

For older students, entering grades 8-12, EPAC’s Artistic Director Edward R. Fernandez will teach a two-week Intensive Acting Workshop from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, June 17-28.

During those two weeks, students will participate in college-level acting and scene-study classes, and will present scenes at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 30. The workshop costs $325 for two weeks.

Space is limited for both the camp and the acting workshop, so sign up today. Go to the online signup page, or call (717) 733-7966, ext. 3.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

'Perestroika': The 'Angels' story continues at EPAC

Amy Carter and Adam Newborn in EPAC's "Angels in America." Part 2 of this two-part play opens tonight, March 28, at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.


The raves couldn’t have been louder for Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” earlier this month.

Media critics and audience members were generous with their praise for the production’s cast, crew and creative team. But the story isn’t over; that same team will continue Tony Kushner’s award-winning story with “Angels in America, Part 2: Perestroika,” which opens tonight, Thursday, March 28, at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre in Ephrata.

We are so fortunate, here in Lancaster County, to have a theater company like EPAC to bring us both parts of this groundbreaking play in the same month. This show truly matches EPAC’s mission of presenting “theater that matters.”

The cast, crew and creative team have worked hard to bring you these two full evenings of theater that tell one compelling, humorous and challenging story, set in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

At the end of Part 1, The Angel crashed into Prior Walter’s life as he was dealing with his lover’s abandonment and his deteriorating health condition. Part 2 starts where Part 1 left off, and picks up the threads of its characters’ ongoing struggles and conflicts. The action continues in settings ranging from a park in Brooklyn to a hospital room, and from Heaven to a living diorama at a Mormon Visitor Center.

If you’re anxious to learn what happened to the characters from the first half of “Angels,” well, all our friends from Part 1 are back: Joe, Prior, Louis, Belize, Roy Cohn, Hannah, The Angel, Mrs. Pitt and others.

Joe’s mother will come to the rescue of the fragile Hannah. Conflict and reconciliation hover over the Prior-Louis-Joe triangle. Roy Cohn rages against the dying of the light. And the foreboding of Part 1 yields to the optimism and hope of Part 2.

Even if you missed Part 1, you DON’T want to miss part 2; it’s your last chance to experience Kushner’s stellar writing brought to life by a talented cast right here in Ephrata.

Visit the EPAC web site, or call (717) 733-7966 for tickets. The show runs through Saturday, April 6.

If you come to the show tonight (Thursday, March 28), bring your ticket for to the Olde Lincoln House, 1398 W. Main St., Ephrata, to celebrate with the cast and crew at the opening-night party.

Thanks, again to Alder Health Services for their sponsorship of both parts of “Angels in America.” There would, literally, have been no “Angels” without these angels!!


Tickets are still available for Suzanne Westenhoefer’s hilarious comedy concert on Friday, April 12, at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.

Your $35 ticket includes the show, a wine-and-cheese reception and a meet-and-greet with Suzanne. This nationally known comic, who talks about the joys and disappointments of her life and relationships – including her life as an out-and-proud lesbian – will have you holding your sides; her previous appearances at EPAC have had audiences crying from laughing so hard.

Have a great time, and support EPAC, all in one fantastic evening.
Visit the web site to order tickets, or call (717) 733-7966.There will be more on Suzanne in the next blog post.

Thanks for supporting EPAC!

-- Merv Wright

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

'Angels in America' soars at EPAC

Kristie Ohlinger is The Angel, and Daniel Green portrays Prior Walter, in EPAC's production of  "Angels in America." Part 1 of this two-part play
 opens Thursday, March 7.


You’ve probably heard of “Angels in America.” But if you haven’t seen HBO’s TV miniseries, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to see the play, you may not know what it’s about.

What IS this important, provocative, adult play about? That’s both a simple and a complex question to answer. It’s a question I pondered as I watched part of a rehearsal of EPAC’s production of “Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches” at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre earlier this week.

The show, set in 1985, is about two New York couples struggling within their relationships. Connections arise between the two couples as the play progresses.
Mormons Joe and Harper Pitt have been sharing a somewhat-committed, yet passionless, marriage. Both are keeping important secrets.

Gay couple Louis Ironson and Prior Walter struggle with Prior’s advancing case of AIDS. The play takes place, after all, in the bad old days of the epidemic – when AZT was experimental and the drug cocktail that’s saved so many lives was unheard of.

Prior and Harper are guest stars in each other’s hallucinations; he’s sick, and she takes pills. 

Other characters interact with these four – including Roy Cohn (of McCarthyism fame), a doctor, a couple of nurses, a mom and a rabbi.

Director Ed Fernandez has assembled a great cast to bring all these characters to life at EPAC.

But the play is also about love, loss, sexuality, personal responsibility, politics, moral choices, self-realization, self-awareness and so much more. It’s heartbreaking at times, and hilarious at others.

This Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play features the fabulous writing of Tony Kushner, Oscar-nominated for the film “Lincoln.” When you watch EPAC’s production of “Angels in America,” you’ll know why Daniel Day-Lewis said he felt bereft of Kushner’s words when filming wrapped.

A great playwright takes you intimately into the lives of his characters while making you think deeply about the larger issues they face.

And Tony Kushner is a great playwright.

Be ready to be both entertained and challenged when you come to see “Angels in America,” which will be presented by EPAC in two parts during the next month. Part 1, “Millennium Approaches,” opens Thursday and runs through March 16; Part 2, “Perestroika,” runs from March 28-April 6.

Please note that the play contains strong language and adult themes; this is a play for grown-ups!

Remember: You can still buy a full subscription for the season through the end of the run of “Millennium Approaches.” If you buy tickets to both Parts 1 and 2, through the box office, at the same time, you’ll get a half-price discount on your ticket to Part 2.

Visit the website for information, or call (717) 733-7966 for information.

Thanks to our generous “Angels in America” sponsor, Alder Health Services. Thanks, also, to our season sponsor, Green Mountain Cyclery and the Farrington family, and our season media sponsor, Blue Ridge Communications.

Thanks, too, to Lily’s on Main for hosting the opening-night party on March 7 for “Millennium Approaches,” and to The Olde Lincoln House for the “Perestroika” opening-night party on March 28. Your ticket to an opening-night performance is also your ticket to the party.


Nationally known comedian SuzanneWestenhoefer, a native of Columbia, PA, returns to the Sharadin Bigler Theatre for another raucous night of comedy at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 12.

Her shows sell out fast, so be sure to order your $35 tickets now! Your ticket includes a wine-and-cheese reception with this comedy-club headliner after the show.
Westenhoefer’s show is for grown-ups, too! Boy, is it ever! But if you're a grown-up who doesn't mind "going there" with Suzanne ... your face will hurt from laughing.
Click here to order, or call the box office at (717) 733-7966.

-- M. Wright

Friday, February 1, 2013

Young talent on display in "Annie Jr."!

            “Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future,” President John F. Kennedy said.
            Come see the Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s Kids4Kids production of “Annie Jr.,” and you’ll experience the wisdom of those words, first hand.
            Kids are an incredibly valuable resource in the theater; they're the audience members and the performers of the future.
            This production of “Annie Jr.,” brimming with youthful energy and talent, gives these young performers the opportunity to create theater for other kids and for audiences of all ages.
            From Thursday night's preview performance, it's clear how very hard these young people (from little kids to teens) have worked to entertain you and bring "Annie's" story to life.
            You certainly don’t have to be a kid to love this show. “Annie Jr.” – a version of the Broadway musical “Annie” that’s been tailored to young performers – is a well-crafted show with a lot of heart and VERY memorable tunes. You’ll leave the theater humming a lot more than just the song “Tomorrow.” 
             Living in an orphanage, Annie yearns for her parents to come and rescue her from her heartless guardian, Miss Hannigan. Things start looking up when she finds herself a guest in the home of the childless billionaire, Oliver Warbucks.
            There are some great individual performances in EPAC’s production, and the ensemble produces a big, full sound, singing numbers like “Hooverville,” “NYC” and “A Hard-Knock Life.”
            It’s great to see kids not only playing the "child" roles, such as Annie (Alaina Fry and Marina Perrotti are sharing the part), but the adult roles as well, such as Daddy Warbucks (Laird Farrington – kudos for shaving his head for the part!) and his trusty secretary, Grace Farrell (Natalie Young).  Then there are the scamps – Miss Hannigan (Emileigh Augnst) and her scheming brother and his moll – Rooster and Lily St. Regis (Will Esposito and Karoline Sigafoos).
            And many, many others. 
            Harley the Dog, portraying Annie’s canine buddy, Sandy, by the way, is awwww-dorable!
            There are plenty of laughs and emotional moments in the show, and these talented kids bring them all to life in a big way. You’ll really enjoy yourself when you come out to the Sharadin Bigler Theatre to support these young performers.
            Kudos to Irving Gonzalez for directing and choreographing this huge cast, ably assisted by stage manager Evan Cooper and vocal director Paulla Lied.
            Thanks to Tish Smith and Jenn Farrington for costuming everyone; the clothes really bring these 1930s scenes to life! 
            Thanks to the technical crew, and to all the parents who drove their kids to auditions, callbacks and rehearsals.
            Special thanks to Blue Ridge Communications, EPAC’s season media sponsor, for a wonderful preview night for “Annie Jr.,” and to the folks at the Hill Top Inn for catering the preview-night reception. That baklava was off the hook!
            Thanks to Lily’s on Main for hosting Friday's opening-night party with the cast and crew of “Annie Jr.,” and to Green Mountain Cyclery for being a season sponsor.
            "Annie Jr." runs the rest of this weekend and throughout next weekend, with evening shows and matinees available. Some of the shows are sold out or close to it, so get your tickets soon! Call the EPAC box office at (717) 733-7966, or visit the website for tickets or information.

-- M. Wright