Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Local theatre is a tough sell. Lots of people want to be part of it (on stage that is - I defy you to try to scare up a tech person worth her vise-grips), but not many people actually want to see it.
Part of that, I think has to do with branding. It's hard to convince people to see something that they aren't familiar with. When the senior citizens line up in front of the Barrow, they know what they're going to see - a friendly musical that you know the words to, or a classic whodunit. Otherwise, there aren't a lot of theatres with the comfort factor of being familiar. Oil City's Community Playhouse puts on a number of well received shows each year. The local high schools compete with the Barrow in terms of old standards, but have a captive audience of moms, dads, grandmas and friends (which is why bringing all those high school students into the Barrow fold - witness the recent Fiddler production- is smart dollars and cents thinking) . Franklin's Theatre in the Little Theatre (TiLT) (full disclosure, I've had the pleasure of being involved with several TiLt productions) used to be a place to see edgy new work, but has recently flattened out in terms of choices.
Othertimes, the problem is parochial in nature. The Clarion University theatre puts on a stunning array of well chosen plays, but I've never actually met anyone who has made the drive from say Franklin to Clarion to see one of the shows. While teaching there, I had to bribe students with bonus points to go see their own theatre.
So, why would an otherwise sane man decide what the area needed was another theatre
When I posed that question to Matt Croyle, the man responsible for Croyle Entertainment, a new production company based in Oil City was quick to clarify that his plans are much bigger than just that:
My company isn't actually going to be a theater itself, of course, it's going to be a production organization that will not only produce live theater, but eventually independent flicks also. I don't think a there's a specific business model like that anywhere in the area.
Also, because of the fact that I really am aiming to utilize the organization to give a voice to new plays and new playwrights, it is very different from the majority (if not all) of the theatrical organizations in the area. Most of the things we see in this area are musicals and those types of fluffy stories. . . Not to take anything away from the organizations that do those types of shows. They are done well and received well in the area. . .But, it seems to me that this area is in need of something different -- something fresh, you could say.
To that end, Croyle is doing it all for CE's first production, Wine, Cheese, & Poe:
...the overall feel of the show is rather somber. It's a look into not only who Poe was as a writer but, also, who he was as an individual and what he wanted from life. I've tried to parallel some of his works with certain aspects of his life. . . It's a pretty simple look at a very complex man.
It's also a classic DIY production with Croyle adapting the material, directing and playing a part in the show. Additionally, his attitude towards theatre and art infuse the show:
In an age where everything seems recycled, from cardboard to Casablanca, we need new talent and stories to remind us that creativity still has a beating heart. Croyle Entertainment's vision is to produce professional quality live theater and independent motion pictures utilizing independent artists and emerging talent. Not only will our productions challenge our talented casts, crews, and production personnel, these new visions will also challenge our audience's perceptions of what they expect film and theater to ultimately be and achieve.
The production is being produced with cooperation by the Oil City Arts Council and will take place October 19, 20, 26, 27 in the National Transit Building's Great Room in Oil City, PA (206 Seneca Street Oil City, PA 16301) . These evenings of theater will feature free wine and cheese during intermissions to patrons 21 and older. Tickets are $13.00 and available at the Transit Building or at the Croyle Entertainment website.

Publisher HarperCollins is launching a community site in an effort to mirror the success the music industry has enjoyed by talent-spotting unsigned acts on sites such as MySpace.

Violet Kazue de Cristoforo, a California poet and scholar who wrote, collected and translated haiku that compressed into a few lines the heartaches and realities of the detention camps where thousands of Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II, died Wednesday at her home in Salinas. She was 90.

Venangoland has been updated with a pumpin' iron post.

Persepolis, an acclaimed animated film about an outspoken Iranian girl's coming of age, is headed to Pittsburgh as part of the Three Rivers Film Festival.

The Erie Times News gorges itself at Franklin's Bella Cucina

Drowned in Sound interviews Iron and Wine's Sam Bean

Five Chapters is serializing a new piece by Butler native Stewart O'Nan.

Remora Deign plays a CD release party at Brother Bean this Saturday at 7pm. No cover.

The Hype Machine has a new look.

Ayris with Phantasm, and God’s Day Off play The Union Room (287 1/2 Chestnut St., Meadville, Pennsylvania 16335) this Saturday. $5

HOT PINK, an exhibit about ‘Art, Education, Awareness & Action’ for Breast Cancer Awareness, opens Friday, October 19th from 7 - 9 pm at The Butler Art Center. The opening reception is free and open to the public; light refreshments will be served.

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