More than 10 years ago, the old Ephtata Playhouse was stripped to its essentials and rebuilt as the lovely Sharadin Bigler Theatre space you enjoy today.
Ten years ago tonight, the Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s theater space reopened – bigger, taller, cooler and better equipped – after extensive renovations.
Hundreds of seats had been added in the theater, rehearsal and dressing rooms had been installed downstairs, the roof had been raised 9 feet – and the place finally had indoor restrooms!!
The venue was eventually renamed the Sharadin Bigler Theatre in honor of the decades of generous financial support EPAC has received from Terry Bigler and the late Michael Sharadin.
Here's a snippet from one of the Lancaster Newspaper accounts of how that evening began for the audience 10 years ago – just before the start of the first show of the 2004 season, “1776”:
"Before the show got under way Thursday night, Ephrata Performing Arts Center artistic director Ed Fernandez bounced onto the stage and said with open arms and a grin, 'What a dump!' "The audience, laughing, erupted in thunderous applause, and looked around the revamped theater with a sense of pride. " 'Welcome to our new home,' Fernandez said. 'Isn’t she beautiful?' " “Though the new Ephrata Performing Arts Center, formerly Ephrata Playhouse, looks shiny and new, its history – with its numerous transformations – runs deep, as far back as the 1700s. "Fittingly, the theater’s debut production is '1776: A Musical,' a hilarious show about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. "... Fernandez calls the building’s architecture 'techno–rustic.' " 'It’s very modern,' he said. 'But yet there is a 200-year-old wood beam running through the ceiling. … Tonight is when theater really starts to happen here again.'
“... The spacious 23,400-foot facility has 300 seats – 200 more than the old pavilion. The roof also was raised 9 feet. 'Lights used to sometimes hit actors on their heads,' Fernandez said. There are dressing rooms, classrooms, laundry rooms and a kitchen downstairs now. ..."
For 10 years since that night, the EPAC family has continued to celebrate the creation of “theater that matters” here at EPAC.
The psychological thriller “Agnes of God” continues in this lovely, air-conditioned theater space Wednesday through Saturday this week. Call 733-7966 for tickets, and help celebrate the anniversary of this theater’s rebirth.