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.