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Community Theatre group leaves Boal Barn

by Marilyn Jones

Change is in the air.
For over 50 years the State College Community Theatre (SCCT) has performed at the Boal Barn Playhouse in Boalsburg, Pa. But that era has come to an end.
Starting with Born Yesterday in May, their new performance home is The State Theatre in downtown State College. (Last December in a joint production with The State Theatre, the SCCT produced Scrooge: The Musical, which they will be doing again this year; in March they produced Legally Blonde).
“When I came on board two years ago,” said David Gritzner, Executive Director of the SCCT, “my mandate was that we were to become a year-round organization; we wanted to perform year round.”
This was not possible in the Barn because it had no heating for the winter months.
“As a result,” continued Gritzner, “that led to conversations with The State Theatre about becoming our performance space in the non-summer months. We also needed a production facility for those months. At first we were going to continue summer at the Barn, until last season when it came to our attention that we were in an aging building that was getting more difficult to work in every year. It became very apparent to us last summer that people were staying away from us due to a lack of air conditioning. The board felt that in the best interest and the safety and comfort of the patrons, performers, and the staff, that it was time to move on. We only rented the facility, so it didn’t make sense for us to make a lot of capital improvements.”
The board talked to The State Theatre about using it for their summer productions as well.
“With the State Theatre’s focus on being a home for local performing arts groups, the combination of the two makes sense,” said Gritzner. “Now we have a place we can perform in year round and we’re working on a location for a production facility that can be used year round as well.”
The way it works is that the State Theatre has a staff that handles both the front of the house (box office, ushers, and concessions) and the technical aspects (lighting and sound).
“Then,” Gritzner said, “there is a settlement process when the show is over and that’s where you look at all the money that came in and you subtract all the money that went out, then each side gets what its owed from the profits.”
“We are pleasantly surprised at the reaction with us being downtown; people like it,” said Gritzner. “It increases our appeal and credibility.”
It also offers the opportunity for matinees, which Gritzner said people have been asking for. Although there will be l fewer summer productions due to other entertainment being offered at the theater, there will be productions year round.
Gritzner, who started out as a piano player, has a B.A. in theater from UCLA, and an MFA in lighting design from the California Institute of the Arts.
“Then,” Gritzner said, “I hopped on a Greyhound bus, just like they do in the movies, for New York.” He travelled a lot working on lighting and scenic design for a variety of venues, then he got steady work as a director of IT for a couple of investment banks.
“But,” said Gritzner, “once you have theater in the blood it does not go away. I found myself needing to get back into it. Three years ago Millbrook [Playhouse in Mill Hall, Pa.], needed a general manager. I thought it was a good marriage of theater and business and I worked there for one year. Their season is short, so I applied to design a show here in 2010 and got my first exposure to SCCT.”
When they created the executive director position at the SCCT the following January, he was asked if he had any interest in the position, so Gritzner decided to apply.
SCCT’s summer season begins this year in May with Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin, followed by The Producers by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan in June, The Crucible by Arthur Miller in July, The Music Man by Merideth Willson in August, Beyond Therapy by Christopher Durang in September, Osage County by Tracy Letts, also in September, and Monty Python’s Spamalot in October. There will also be two additional children’s productions, and there will be Scrooge: The Musical, by Charles Dickens with music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, in December.
Gritzner said the SCCT always has open auditions for parts and needs volunteers for the following areas: scene shop, load in/strike the set, costume shop, running crew, marketing and publicity, and 50/50.
Find out about the shows, reservations, auditions, and volunteer opportunities on their website at The box office phone number is 814-272-0606.
“The SCCT needs to be rebranded. It is not the Boal Barn Playhouse or the State Theatre,” Gritzner said. “It is The State College Community Theatre, a company that is now actually based in State College.”

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