Hope springs eternal in the theater community and producers across the Lower Hudson Valley are facing uncertain economic times with no lack of ideas in their fall calendars and beyond.
Up in Croton Falls, the Schoolhouse Theater’s Pam Moller Kareman knows what works — and she’s sticking with it. Last season’s sold-out run of Brian Friel’s memory play “Dancing at Lughnasa” returns — with the cast intact — to kick off the new season on Sept. 22.
White Plains Performing Arts Center, which started last fall dreaming big — as a new home to all-new works, with an entirely new creative team — lost momentum before the season’s end, and the team disbanded. This fall, WPPAC producing artistic director Jeremy Quinn has set his sights on the tried and true: “Cats,” “Lend Me a Tenor” and a musical version of “The Secret Garden.” Gone are the all-Equity productions; Quinn is looking to augment local casts with a few pros.
(This weekend, WPPAC and Harrison Summer Theater present the Westchester premiere of the rock musical “Spring Awakening.” Final curtain is at 7 tonight.)
In Mamaroneck, the Emelin Theater continues to present a series of one-night or one-weekend shows by outside groups, including Aquila Theater, which brings Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” to Mamaroneck’s Library Lane on Nov. 19.
Purchase Rep, the Purchase College conservatory’s resident company, continues to present classic and contemporary works with production values that eclipse those on Broadway. And the talent, whose work is Broadway-bound (Purchase alums include Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco), make the air in the black-box theater crackle with possibilities. They start with Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” next month.
While some venues are scaling back in the sour economy, producers Bob Funking and Bill Stutler are ramping things up at Westchester Broadway Theatre, promising shorter runs of more (and more varied) shows. After “My Fair Lady” (which opens Sept. 22) and a Christmas show, the Elmsford dinner theater plans a 2012 brimming with variety: “Big River,” “Xanadu,” “Legally Blonde,” “Hairspray,” “George M.,” “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Can Can,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“We hope our fan base will be able to attend more often and we’ll offer certain shows that will appeal to a new audience,” said Stutler, whose theater is in its 37th season. “To survive, we must all look at new avenues. We can’t just stick to old formulas.”
In Briarcliff Manor, Hudson Stage presents Yasmina Reza’s dark comedy “God of Carnage,” which is coming to movie theaters later this fall. Rather than pretend the film doesn’t exist, producers Olivia Sklar, Denise Bessette and Dan Foster are embracing it, getting behind the slogan: “See the play first at Hudson Stage, then see the movie — and discuss.” “God of Carnage” opens Nov. 5. The cast includes Croton’s Bessette, New Rochelle’s Paul Carlin, Carol Halstead and Doug Ballard.
Penguin Rep in Stony Point wraps up its 34th May-to-November season with Richard Dresser’s “Rounding Third,” about two Little League coaches with different approaches to the game. It opens Oct. 14.
Pleasantville’s Axial Theatre is doing what it has done for a dozen years: developing new works. Two one-acts comprise the fall production, “Taking Off,” opening Oct. 20: Ward Riley’s “Feathers Sometimes Soar on the Breath of God” and Linda Giuliano’s “The Magician.”
Community theaters are gearing up for some milestone years, including Rockland’s Antrim Playhouse, marking it 75th year.
Meanwhile, Michael Mirra’s Little Radical Theatrics, a group bridging high-school and college-age actors, has ambitious plans to present Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party” in late January 2012, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” in April and “A Little Night Music” in July. The group has teamed with Paul Andrew Perez’s Main Street Arts Children’s Theater, which is currently scouting a variety of locations in Northern Westchester.