The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

July 9, 2014

Danville was prime location for ‘Gypsy’

DANVILLE — The director of the musical “Gypsy” commended Montour County Commissioners Chairman Trevor Finn for encouraging her theater group to bring the production to the county.

The musical this weekend will be the first performances of the RiverStage Community Theatre to be held in Montour County.

Having been invited to attend the commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, director Jennifer Wakeman said they have been working very hard during rehearsals in the Danville Middle School.

“Gypsy” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the school. Tickets are $15 and will be sold at the door.

“Danville is centrally located,” she said, adding actors come from a wide area with one of their leads traveling all the way from Laporte.

“Danville is an excellent location,” said Wakeman, of the theater group that has no permanent home. Last year, they performed at Shikellamy High school and have presented shows at Milton High School, the Campus Theatre, Shamokin and Bloomsburg in the past.

“We’re excited to see what sort of audience we will bring,” Wakeman said of the Danville shows.

The commissioners approved $1,000 of money collected from tourism for the theater group.

Wakeman said a typical budget for a musical is $8,000 to $10,000.  

The nonprofit RiverStage organization has existed for two years and grew out of the Milton Area Community Theater which was formed in 2004.

“This is our 12th season. We have quite a following. We are an all-volunteer board,” said Wakeman, who also volunteers as a director.

“We do it for the sheer love of doing it and to bring live theater to communities and to give people a creative outlet. The actors are really excited about being here,” she said.

She has already submitted the paperwork for the group to perform this time next year in the Danville Middle School. “The Danville School District has been amazing. They gave me as much access as I needed and unprecedented access to the building,” she said.

“I thank Trevor for setting up this in the first place,” she said.

“We hope to see a lot of new faces,” Wakeman said of the musical which usually is their biggest attendance draw of the year. She anticipates more than 600 people for the three performances.

The musical includes 11 children of which she hopes will attract their families to come see them perform. “We love to have kids involved in our shows,” she said.

“We’re glad to have the backing of the commissioners and of community groups,” Wakeman said.

She explained the musical is loosely based on the famous burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee and includes the story of her mother, Rose, “the quintessential stage mom.” The show is also hilarious and “an awful lot of fun,” she said.

RiverStage hopes to present a play in November at the Jane E. DeLong Community Hall in Washingtonville. “We need to work out some details,” Wakeman said of the hall she looked at this past spring.

Finn said he, Vice Chairman Jack Gerst and Commissioner Jerry Ward reached out to the theater group “because we want to bring other cultural opportunities to the county that we don’t have.”

“You are doing a fantastic job,” he told Wakeman, adding cast members buy gas and eat at area restaurants while coming and going from rehearsals.

Ward described the arts helping communities as “a giant circle.” “After people walk on our trails and see the beautiful scenery, they need things to do,” he said in thanking Wakeman for bringing the musical to the county. “We want people to stay here, to live here and to participate here,” he said.

Wakeman said RiverStage has had conversations with groups in Union County about providing a permanent location to them. That may be a vision for five to 10 years, she said.

“If we knew a place was ours,” she said, adding, “having a home is expensive also.”

Gerst said he was very excited about the production being here. “I have always thought we were short on the arts. I love plays. I was very disappointed when they closed Rockwell Center in Milton,” he said.

He said he’d love to see the theater group find a permanent home in Montour County. “It’s very important. Why should our children have to travel to see another person on stage,” he said. “I very much appreciate you being here,” he told Wakeman.

If her group were to find a permanent home that would allow them to present more than three shows a season.

Email comments to kblackledge@thedanvillenews.com.

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