Olde Towne Theatre opens 27th year needing an angel
NORTH RIDGEVILLE — When the lights go up to accent the Olde Towne Hall Theatre stage, sometimes they flicker.
At times, they have even gone off for minutes at a time, leaving the actors in the dark.
|STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
|Rick Evans, Susan Didino (center) and Kim Mihalik rehearse for “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” which opens Friday at Olde Towne Hall Theatre in North RIdgeville.
But the Olde Towne Hall Theatre Board is hoping to shed some light on the dim subject by purchasing a new programmable lighting system.
According to board member Deb Wentz, the current light board is out of date.
“It’s ancient and it is grossly under-powered,” she said. “When (the theater) performed ‘Belles’ there were blackouts.”
Theater technician Dave MacKeigan, who was the light designer for the Workshop Players Theatre in Amherst, which has a programmable lighting system, said it would cost the Olde Towne Hall Theatre anywhere between $20,000 and $25,000 for a new system.
“This is just not within our annual budget,” Wentz said. “Amherst had the money and they have a different financial support group.”
The theatre operates on a tight budget, with very small profit margins due to the cost of royalties and professional salaries for productions.
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MacKeigan said the Olde Towne Hall Theatre, which is celebrating its 27th year, is in such desperate need of a new light system that they needed it “yesterday.”
“The sooner, the better,” Wentz said.
Last week, as the cast of seven prepared for its fall production, “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” MacKeigan was getting ready to meet with director Monica Olejko to discuss the lighting for the show.
The current light system is manual, meaning a person must sit in a small booth and whenever there is a cue written on the script, he must move a lever up or down to either enhance or reduce the lights on stage.
According to MacKeigan, only half of the light system in place at the Olde Towne Hall Theatre is workable.
“We want (a system) that is safe and meets the light requirements for the different shows,” Wentz said. “There are areas of the stage that have no access to light, which makes it difficult to use the entire stage.”
Olde Towne Hall Theatre has managed to stay in the black, but not all shows make money, Wentz said.
The theater facility is owned by the city of North Ridgeville, which allows the Olde Towne Hall Theatre to use it rent-free.
“The city provides a space for us to use, and they have to maintain the structure,” Wentz said, adding she is thankful for the relationship between the city and theater.
However, the stage keeps growing. Recently, two additional rows of seating were removed near the front to extend the stage outward, Wentz said.
Yet, with 1,200 people on the Olde Towne Hall Theatre’s annual mailing list, not many North Ridgeville residents know the city even has a theater, Wentz said.
“That is our biggest frustration,” she said.
The theater has been part of North Ridgeville since 1978, when it was a children’s theater started by resident Kathleen Forthofer.
In the late 1970s, the theater facility on the second floor of the old town hall was being used by the city for storage.
Eventually city administrators gave Forthofer permission to renovate the facility and return it back to a near-original configuration.
In the beginning, it was only a children’s theater, but gradually made the transformation to include adults.
Today, there are three adult performances per year and a children’s Christmas show in December.