Work­shop Play­ers cel­e­brates 70 years of cre­ativ­ity

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Richard Pay­erchin rpay­erchin@morn­ingjour­ @MJ_ Jour­nalRick on Twit­ter

"I’ve heard peo­ple say that they love to come here be­cause ev­ery time they come here, you create some­thing dif­fer­ent."

— Board Pres­i­dent Dave Stacko

As the Work­shop Play­ers pol­ished their per­for­mance of the mu­si­cal “You’re a Good Man, Char­lie Brown,” the char­ac­ter Lucy re­mained un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally silent.

That was not part of the play.

In one of the last dress re­hearsals be­fore their sea­son opener, ac­tress Ali­cia Fo­gal was stricken with laryn­gi­tis and could not speak.

But for the Work­shop Play­ers The­atre in the Round cast and crew, the show must go on, like it has for 70 years.

The 2017-18 sea­son marks the 70th an­niver­sary for Work­shop Play­ers, and a ret­ro­spec­tive of sorts. All the plays have been per­formed be­fore by Work­shop Play­ers, but the dra­mas, come­dies and mu­si­cals will get new twists this sea­son.

“The idea was to take some­thing from each decade and re­boot it,” said Pat Price, of Lo­rain.

A 10-year ac­tor and di­rec­tor, Price also serves as theater board sec­re­tary and ed­i­tor of its weekly news­let­ter.

The play be­gins

The theater got its start in the sum­mer of 1947. A num­ber of Clearview High School stu­dents of Va­lerie Jenkins Ger­sten­berger grad­u­ated but wanted a place to con­tinue per­form­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Work­shop Play­ers’ of­fi­cial his­tory.

She di­rected them in

“West­ern Union Please” in Au­gust 1947 at the Clearview High School au­di­to­rium. It was the first in­car­na­tion of the group that would be­come Work­shop Play­ers, which be­gan re­hearsals for its sec­ond show in late 1948.

Work­shop Play­ers’ cur­rent home is the 1898 sand­stone school­house at 44820 Mid­dle Ridge Road in Amherst.

The theater has 100 seats and the com­pany per­forms shows arena- style, sur­rounded by the au­di­ence on four sides, or with a thrust stage, with the stage space thrust amid the view­ers on three sides.

It’s a space that kin­dles cre­ativ­ity among the cast and crew. Adapt­abil­ity is re­quired for set de­sign and stage di­rec­tions.

“I’ve heard peo­ple say that they love to come here be­cause ev­ery time they come here, you create some­thing dif­fer­ent,” said Board Pres­i­dent Dave Stacko of Amherst Town­ship. “It’s just in­ter­est­ing to see what can be cre­ated in a small space.” Play­ers in 1963 or 1964 to watch a per­for­mance by his friend, Paula Scro­fano, a Lo­rain native who went on to make her ca­reer on stage in Chicago.

“I kind of liked what I saw of the theater,” Stacko said. “I like the in­ti­macy, the close­ness of the ac­tors to the au­di­ence, and it was in the round. That in­trigued me, hav­ing only done prosce­nium theater prior to that.” Next came an au­di­tion. “Lo and be­hold, the first show I tried out for, I got the lead role,” Stacko said. That play be­came the first of 75 shows he has done with Work­shop Play­ers.

“I think they just needed peo­ple when I was try­ing out,” Stacko said.

“Oh, that’s not true. I love to work with him, he’s a won­der­ful ac­tor,” Price said.

As an English and drama teacher at Ober­lin High School, Price said the school had a vi­brant drama club and she en­joyed tak­ing stu­dents to the­aters for field trips. One time they came to Work­shop Play­ers to see “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” a Neil Si­mon play in which Stacko had the lead.

“I was not too far from re­tire­ment at that point and I re­mem­ber sit­ting here go­ing, when I re­tire, I want to be in­volved right here, be­cause I too like the in­ti­macy,” Price said. “I like theater in the round so much both as an ac­tress

and as a di­rec­tor.”

Stacko, 73, and Price, 66, are among the vet­eran per­form­ers that an­chor the troupe. Ac­tors try out for their roles, so the cast gets a re­boot for each show.

“One of the things that im­pressed me since I be­came in­volved here 10 years ago, there seem to al­ways be new peo­ple,” Price said.

“There’s al­ways those that want to au­di­tion over and over again, but you do get new peo­ple and you hope you get new peo­ple just for fresh blood into the theater,” Stacko said. “They can see the space and they can, word of mouth, tell other peo­ple about it be­cause this ev­i­dently is a quiet, un­known trea­sure to a lot of peo­ple in the area, es­pe­cially lo­cally.”

The an­niver­sary sea­son was to open with “You’re a Good Man, Char­lie Brown,” by Clark Ges­ner, based on the comic strip of by Charles M. Schultz. of Lakewood stepped into their re­spec­tive roles for the play when an­other di­rec­tor and mu­si­cal di­rec­tor had to leave the pro­duc­tion.

For “Char­lie Brown,” the char­ac­ter Sally Brown is played by Shel­bey Lin­der, 25, a six-year vet­eran of the theater com­pany and a mem­ber of its board of di­rec­tors. Ac­tor Kevin Cline, 43, of North Ridgeville, is in the ti­tle role, and he worked with Lin­der and her mother, Stage Man­ager Becky Lin­der, for last year’s Christ­mas show.

Fo­gal, 45, of Rocky River, and fel­low ac­tors Matt Tomecko, 34, of North Olm­sted, Matt Cuf­fari, 31, of Lo­rain, and Brett Hei­dinger, 24, of North Olm­sted, have stage ex­pe­ri­ence but are de­but­ing with Work­shop Play­ers.

Stage Man­ager Becky Lin­der, who is the mother of Shel­bey Lin­der, and tech­ni­cian Matt Gould worked out light­ing cues and hunted for bat­ter­ies for their walkie-talkies. It was de­cided Hei­dinger needed longer white socks for his Snoopy cos­tume.

Fo­gal’s prog­no­sis was “fin­gers crossed” on both hands to get bet­ter for open­ing night. For the prac­tice, Fo­gal went on stage and mouthed the words as Rivera read her lines aloud.

The comic strip char­ac­ters came to life as Sally, Li­nus, Lucy and Schroeder, and Snoopy atop his dog­house, opened with their homage to Char­lie Brown.

Show times are at 7:30 p.m., Thurs­days, Fri­days and Satur­days. Sun­day mati­nees are at 3p.m. Doors open 45 min­utes be­fore show time.

Ticket in­for­ma­tion, along with in­for­ma­tion about au­di­tions and get­ting in­volved back­stage is avail­able online at work­shop­play­

For more in­for­ma­tion, call 440-988-5613.

Soon he was eating lunch alone, star­ing across the play­ground, so­lil­o­quiz­ing about the lit­tle red­haired girl.

“I won­der what she would do if I went over there and asked if I could sit next to her,” said Cline, por­tray­ing Char­lie Brown. “Prob­a­bly laugh in my face. It’s hard on a face when it gets laughed in.”


Per­form­ers for Amherst’s Work­shop Play­ers Theater re­hearse a scene from You’re a Good Man, Char­lie Brown, Sept. 12. Pic­tured, from left, are: Matt Cuf­fari, 31, of Lo­rain as Li­nus; Kevin Cline, 43, of North Ridgeville as Char­lie Brown and Ali­cia Fo­gal, 45, of Rocky River as Lucy.


Thirty-one-year-old Matt Cuf­fari, of Lo­rain por­trays Li­nus dur­ing a Work­shop Play­ers Theater re­hearsal of You’re a Good Man, Char­lie Brown, Sept. 12.

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