Discover a little Paris magic in Dayton this week 

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 11:13 AM

“An American in Paris” will be on stage at the Schuster Center Nov. 7-12. CONTRIBUTED
“An American in Paris” will be on stage at the Schuster Center Nov. 7-12. CONTRIBUTED

It’s wonderful how dynamic the latest national tour of “An American in Paris” is in its Broadway-caliber regional premiere courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series. 

Inspired by the 1951 Academy Award-winning film memorably choreographed by Gene Kelly with songs by George and Ira Gershwin, the show weaves exemplary components of song, dance and technology in its gorgeous blend of musical theater and ballet. Here are five reasons why you should see this entertaining and romantic confection set in 1945 Paris at the end of World War II continuing through Sunday, Nov. 12 at the Schuster Center.

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Ballet sequences are a highlight of “An American in Paris.” CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

1. A STORY OF FRIENDSHIP, LOVE AND WAR

Following the liberation of France, U.S. Army Lieutenant Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox dancing with skillful finesse) plans to head home, but chooses to stay having been smitten by lovely ballerina Lise Dassin (simply stunning Allison Walsh).

Jerry, an aspiring painter, soon makes friends with fledgling composer Adam Hochberg (a comical yet nuanced Matthew Scott) and wealthy Henri Baurel (fittingly sophisticated Ben Michael), but can’t get Lise off his mind.

Even when he’s devastated to learn Lise is engaged to Henri, he vows to win her heart, desperately hoping for some good to come of his life after experiencing the horrors of war.

“The show is about the characters’ struggle to find life, to find love, to find happiness again after this dark period,” said director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. “The movie was made in the early ‘50s and the war was still very fresh, so Paris was treated in a kind of hyper-unrealistic way.

With the distance of time, there was so much more we could do. We had the freedom to place Paris in a more realistic, historical context, and talk about what the city was like after the Nazis left, and how romance and art and music were balm to the wounds. Paris behaves as a character in the show and we see the city open up and breathe again.”

2. THE TIMELESS MUSIC HITS

George and Ira Gershwin’s timeless hits include such gems as “I Got Rhythm,” “The Man I Love,” “But Not For Me” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

George’s orchestral works, particularly “Concerto in F,” “Second Rhapsody” and “Cuban Overture,” also propel the story to great effect.

“Gershwin is so cool,” said Maddox, former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada who began dancing at the age of 3. “It’s not a challenge to feel cool and sexy at the end of the evening having danced to his music. George was a rock star in his day. When you listen to his music, you really feel that early jazz essence.”

Playwright Craig Lucas says the creators of “An American in Paris” were able to focus on what it was like for American GI’s after the war. CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

3. TREMENDOUS CHOREOGRAPHY

Wheeldon duly won the Tony Award for Best Choreography and his remarkable routines ranging from tap to jazz are worth the price of admission.

The sheer storytelling flair of dramatic opener “Concerto in F” is notable in addition to the playful restlessness of “Fidgety Feet,” Maddox and Walsh’s expert partnering in “Liza,” the razzle dazzle of “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” (featuring a knockout transition from a small nightclub to the lavish stage of Radio City Music Hall), and the thrilling titular Act 2 ballet (colorfully bathed in red, white, blue, yellow and black).

“In some way Gene Kelly has influenced every male dancer,” Maddox said. “Anytime I’m on stage, I like to feel as if I’m representing Gene Kelly but also Baryshnikov, Nureyev and all the greats that came before me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. But Christopher Wheeldon is brilliant. There was certainly risk involved with this show, but knowing the show itself is pretty much encompassed by the dance, and the dance is really the shining moment of this musical, speaks to Christopher’s fearlessness as an artist.”

The plot of “American in Paris” centers around a World War II veteran who comes to Paris and falls in love with a beautiful French girl. CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

4. YOU WILL FEEL LIKE YOU’RE IN PARIS

The technical, digital landscape of theater design continues to rapidly evolve, specifically enabling projection designers to imaginatively enhance any environment or set pieces. In this instance, 59 Productions completely heightens the look and feel of Paris to astounding degrees. Streets, cafés, boulangeries, the Seine and more vividly appear throughout as if drawn like a painting. It is a marvel. In fact, 59 Productions duly shared the Tony for Best Scenic Design with Bob Crowley, who also designed costumes.

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Ben Michael as Henri Baurel, McGee Maddox as Jerry Mulligan and Matthew Scott as Adam Hochberg in “An American in Paris” (Contributed photo)

5. THE PEDIGREE

Nominated for 12 Tonys in 2015 including Best Musical, “An American in Paris” was named Outstanding Musical by the Drama League and Outstanding New Musical by the Outer Critics Circle.

The cast album, featuring Muse Machine alumna Jill Paice of Beavercreek as Milo Davenport, received a Grammy nomination.

“There’s so much familiar music in this show, but when you juxtapose that with Christopher’s neo-classical choreography, it makes it a pretty refreshing show,” Maddox said. “This is a show old and young people can enjoy together.”

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WANT TO GO? 

What: “An American in Paris” 

When: Now showing through Sunday, Nov. 12. 

Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton 

Tickets: $25 -$98. Student and military discounts are available. Get tickets online at TicketCenterStage.com, at the Box Office, or by phone at 937-228-3630 or 888-228-3630. 

NOTE: Saturday matinee performances of Broadway Series presentations are signed and/or audio interpreted. Please let the ticket agent know at least two weeks before the performance if you would like either of these services when you order your tickets at Ticket Center Stage.

Regional premiere of ‘Christians’ at Dayton Theatre Guild

Published: Saturday, November 18, 2017 @ 12:00 AM


            Richard Young (from left), Jill Evans, Steve Strawser, Jackie Anderson, and Thor Sage appear in the Dayton Theatre Guild s regional premiere of The Christians through Dec. 3. CONTRIBUTED
Richard Young (from left), Jill Evans, Steve Strawser, Jackie Anderson, and Thor Sage appear in the Dayton Theatre Guild s regional premiere of The Christians through Dec. 3. CONTRIBUTED

Lucas Hnath’s contemporary drama “The Christians,” a thought-provoking look at faith, spirituality, ministry, doctrine, debate, and growth, continues its regional premiere at the Dayton Theatre Guild through Sunday, Dec. 3.

This intriguing and insightful play concerns Pastor Paul, who shocks his congregation by revealing a newfound belief. His epiphany threatens to split the church, particularly his relationship with his associate pastor. How the church copes with Pastor Paul’s stance fuels the play’s engrossing and relevant themes.

“This play offers a really sensitive and moving journey inside one person’s journey to why they believe what they believe, and what happens to communities when beliefs change,” said director Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp, a dynamic Lady Utterword in the Guild’s 2015 production of “Heartbreak House.” “What happens in the play is very personal to everyone involved. Relationships are damaged, bonds of trust are broken, love between church family and actual family is deeply challenged. It is a human story and those always make for the most compelling plays to see and experience.”

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Sparrow-Knapp also says the play isn’t political. She found it very respectful to her own experience growing up as a member of an evangelical church in Springfield.

“People of faith who have read the script (mentioned) how it really captures the inner workings and dynamics of large churches and I agree wholeheartedly,” she said. “The staff and congregation are very much families within church communities in every sense of the word. They possess deep love for each other, but they also fight and disagree and have to work through conflicts and change, good times and bad, just like any other family. For those who share the faith professed in ‘The Christians,’ the play is a really deep and poetic look at these relationships.”

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“Who or what is God is a strong underlying theme of the play,” added Richard Young, a retired Catholic priest who portrays Pastor Paul and has performed with numerous troupes over the years, including the Guild and Dayton Playhouse. “People are challenged in Pastor Paul’s church to think beyond the male, kingly, images they were so used to. In a rare moment of mysticism in the play, Pastor Paul says, ‘I want a God who is not as small-minded as I am.’

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“Another strong theme concerns the idea of being faithful to your convictions and still trusting that doing so will not get you condemned. The world may condemn, but the God revealed in Christ does not. What is required for Pastor Paul’s people, struggling to be true to their faith, is a ‘leap of faith.’ It is about letting go of old formulae and old ways of interpreting the stories of our tradition. Can they do that and still think of themselves as Christians?”

The cast also features Jill Evans as Paul’s wife Elizabeth, Thor Sage as associate pastor Joshua, Steve Strawser as church elder Jay, and Jackie Anderson as congregant Jennifer. Julia Hoff will provide musical selections.

“The Christians,” a finalist at the 2014 Humana Festival, opened off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 2015. In 2016, it was chosen as the eighth most-produced new play by American Theatre magazine. Hnath, who grew up in an Assemblies of God church in Orlando, Florida and based some elements of the play on his own experience, received his first Tony Award nomination last season for his brilliant dramedy “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

“God is very much a part of this play, both in Hnath’s words and in the characters he creates,” Sparrow-Knapp reminded. “In the end, it’s really about that for all of us and our understanding of our own spirituality. How do the things we believe deepen our relationship between us and the divine?”

WANT TO GO?

What: “The Christians”

Where: Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton

When: Through Dec. 3; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 5 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m.

Cost: $20 for adults; $18 for seniors; $13 for students

Tickets/more info: Call (937) 278-5993 or visit daytontheatreguild.org.

FYI: The play is performed in 90 minutes without intermission.

DCDC presents ‘Littlest Angel’ at UD

Published: Saturday, November 18, 2017 @ 12:00 AM


            DCDC s fourth annual holiday presentation of The Littlest Angel, based on the children s book by Charles Tazewell, will be held Dec. 1 and 2 in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY AUDREY INGRAM
DCDC s fourth annual holiday presentation of The Littlest Angel, based on the children s book by Charles Tazewell, will be held Dec. 1 and 2 in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY AUDREY INGRAM

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company ushers in the holidays with its family-friendly presentation of Charles Tazewell’s beloved 1946 children’s story “The Littlest Angel” Friday, Dec. 1, and Saturday, Dec. 2, in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton.

This heartwarming and joyful tale of giving and humility concerns a 4-year-old child homesick in heaven who is allowed to return to Earth to retrieve a box he left behind. Meanwhile, God announces Jesus will soon be born in Bethlehem and every angel prepares a gift.

The Littlest Angel decides to give Jesus a small box of personal items, but ultimately questions its worth compared to the other gifts. However, God recognizes the inherent value in his gift nonetheless.

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“I think it’s one of the most beautifully put-together evenings of dance that tells a story,” said DCDC Artistic Director Debbie Blunden-Diggs, who fondly remembers her mother, DCDC founder Jeraldyne Blunden, reading the story to her when she was a young girl. “The music (and) movement vocabulary inspired by words within the story (is) really stunning.”

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“The ideas of tradition and heritage and culture are important,” echoed choreographer and DCDC Associate Artistic Director Crystal Michelle. “To hear feedback from people that something I created has become something people expect to do during the holidays with their loved ones, that ‘The Littlest Angel’ is special in their life, is special to me.”

In related news, DCDC has been invited to perform across numerous cities in Russia and Kazakhstan in May 2018 as cultural ambassadors through the U.S. State Department’s “DanceMotion USA” exchange program.

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“As we are planning for the 50th anniversary celebration of our world-renowned dance company, this particular invitation is a special blessing of renewed spirit as our legacy continues,” said DCDC CEO Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders. “I’m excited for the dancers and for the exposure of our company to this worldwide audience. This kind of tour allows us to connect beautiful art to other cultures as we strive for knowledge and understanding of each other.”

WANT TO GO?

What: “The Littlest Angel”

Where: Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton, 300 College Park, Dayton

When: Dec. 1 and 2: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $22.50-$25

Tickets/more info: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com

FYI: For a sneak peek of “The Littlest Angel” check out #LittlestAngel on DCDC social media accounts: Facebook/Instagram: @daytoncontemporarydancecompany and Twitter: @DCDCLive.

5 reasons to see this version of ‘Rocky Horror Show’

Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 @ 7:03 AM

The 2015 cast of “The Rocky Horror Show” presented at Timothy's Bar near the University of Dayton's campus. CONTRIBUTED
The 2015 cast of “The Rocky Horror Show” presented at Timothy's Bar near the University of Dayton's campus. CONTRIBUTED

Babies, don’t you panic. The “Sweet Transvestite” and his kooky cronies are back as Dayton’s Annual Transylvanian Convention stages its 10th anniversary presentation of Richard O’Brien’s 1973 cult classic rock musical “The Rocky Horror Show” Nov. 1-4 at Timothy’s Bar on Brown Street. 

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Darren Brown as Dr. Frank N. Furter in the 2008 production of “The Rocky Horror Show.” CONTRIBUTED

 

THE COMMITMENT 

In 2008, this labor of love was set in motion by Darren Brown, a 2009 University of Dayton graduate who recently received his M.F.A.in acting from the University of Connecticut. 

A longtime “Rocky Horror” fan, Brown felt the urge to bring his favorite show to Dayton in some capacity having been a part of a student production during his brief time at Ohio University. 

“I really felt UD needed this show and Tim’s was a dive bar with a stripper pole,” Brown exclaimed. “The first year was like ‘garage band theater.’ We did everything from the ground up. We put in the sweat equity. We did all we could to make it happen, and it was a huge success. Ten years later, I’m glad this show has become a staple in the UD community. The spirit of the show and the community within the troupe and the greater Dayton area all of us had hoped to foster 10 years ago is still there and still thriving. To be celebrating the 10th anniversary is absolutely awesome.” 

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The original 2008 cast of “The Rocky Horror Show” by University of Dayton students and presented at Timothy's Bar. CONTRIBUTED

 

TIMELESS STORY AND SONGS 

O’Brien’s silly and risqué sci-fi romp tells the tale of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, straight-laced sweethearts who stumble upon the castle of mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter. 

As the duo tries to cope within their strange surroundings, Frank (fixated on creating life, which arises in the form of the hunky Rocky) and his followers take them on an unforgettable journey. 

The timeless score features the exuberantly iconic “Time Warp” in addition to terrific ballads such as “Science Fiction Double Feature,” “Over at the Frankenstein Place” and “Super Heroes.” 

“I really feel this production is one of the best productions of ‘Rocky Horror’ in the region,” said Brown, who serves as producer. “We try to capture the spirit of both “Rocky Horror Show’ and ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ I love this ‘Rocky’ hybrid we’ve created. ‘Rocky Horror’ overall is a modern masterpiece.” 

 

THE LEGACY 

Under the direction of Laura Porcelli, this year’s incarnation features principals Patrick Bernauer as Dr. Frank N. Furter, Thomas Pedrotti as Brad Majors, Alexa Rojas as Janet Weiss, Max Shafer as Riff-Raff, Belle Mochrie as Magenta, Jordan Hightower as Columbia, Thomas Blevins as Rocky, Sam Gyenes as Eddie, Ben McMillen as Dr. Scott, Aaron Eversole as The Criminologist, and Betsy Mazza as Lips. 

“Being in “Rocky’ is definitely one of the highlights of my year,” said Pedrotti, who delivered a breakthrough performance earlier this season as Jud Fry in Brookville Community Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!” “I think part of what makes it so special is how unique it is. The culture that’s grown up around it over the years is incredible. I think it’s great how the show encourages confidence.” In addition, Saturday’s performance is considered Alumni Night. 

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The audience enjoys the 2015 incarnation of “The Rocky Horror Show” at Timothy's Bar near the University of Dayton. CONTRIBUTED

 

THE ATMOSPHERE 

The fun of any “Rocky Horror” experience is the audience participatory “callbacks,” allowing the audience to interject throughout the evening. Brown doesn’t want you to hold back. 

“My biggest passion about ‘Rocky Horror’ is community,” he said. “The most culturally accepted taboo in America is ‘Rocky Horror.’ You can shout terrible, derogatory things and nobody cares. It’s incredible that it’s still that way in 2017 since we are so culturally sensitive about everything. There is no censorship here. ‘Rocky Horror’ is a completely inclusive community. Just show up and whoever you are and whoever you want to be is accepted.” 

“I think UD’s take on this show is great because how into it the cast gets,” Pedrotti added. “We really become a family and the culture is really a great thing to be a part of. It’s wonderful to be able to cut loose on stage and just have a good time.” 

 

THE MISSION 

All proceeds from the production benefit The Greater Dayton LGBT Center. 

“We love partnering with the local community,” Brown said. “We want to do good by supporting our community. Our production encapsulates community, theater, sexuality, inclusion, and service. This is why this show has become a mainstay.” 

 

WANT TO GO?

What: “The Rocky Horror Show: A Decade of Decadence” 

When: Nov. 1-4; 9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday; Doors open 1 hour prior 

Where: Timothy’s Bar, 1818 Brown St., Dayton 

Cost: $6 Wednesday; $8 Thursday-Saturday 

FYI: Must be 18 or older to attend; Must be 21 or older to drink

ON STAGE: Playhouse South presents rarely produced ‘Chess’

Published: Saturday, November 04, 2017 @ 12:00 AM


            From left: TC Schreier (Freddie Trumper), Lindsey Cardoza (Florence Vassy), TJ Montgomery (Antaoly Sergievsky), and Jim Brown (Ivan Molokov) are featured in Playhouse South s production of Chess continuing through Nov. 12 inside Kettering s Clark Haines Theatre (Contributed photo)
From left: TC Schreier (Freddie Trumper), Lindsey Cardoza (Florence Vassy), TJ Montgomery (Antaoly Sergievsky), and Jim Brown (Ivan Molokov) are featured in Playhouse South s production of Chess continuing through Nov. 12 inside Kettering s Clark Haines Theatre (Contributed photo)

The show that gave birth to “One Night in Bangkok” is back.

The rarely staged 1988 musical “Chess,” which flopped on Broadway but still attracts a strong cult following nearly 30 years later, continues through Sunday, Nov. 12, inside Kettering’s Clark Haines Theatre courtesy of Playhouse South.

Featuring a vocally demanding score by Tim Rice (“Jesus Christ Superstar”) and ABBA tunesmiths Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus, “Chess” is a Cold War-era tale of U.S. and Russian intrigue set against the backdrop of an international chess match.

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As American hotshot Freddie Trumper and Russian powerhouse Anatoly Sergievsky battle for international glory, Florence Vassy, Freddie’s manager, ultimately falls in love with Anatoly. Emotional stakes are raised as romantic and political complications ensue accented by such terrific songs as “Someone Else’s Story,” “Anthem,” “I Know Him So Well,” and the aforementioned pop hit made famous by Murray Head.

“The tensions between America and Russia are tangible in ‘Chess’ and that is mirrored in today’s politics so it really remains current,” said TC Schreier portraying Freddie. “History has a maniacal way of repeating itself.”

“On the surface, ‘Chess’ is a story about two champions with a love triangle between them, but the show has so much history and layers built in,” echoed TJ Montgomery portraying troubled Anatoly. “It’s a very smart show.”

Schreier, happily returning to Playhouse South where he was nurtured as an actor, is particularly excited to give self-absorbed Freddie his fair share of flair.

“He’s like a mix of Bobby Fischer and Freddie Mercury all wrapped up in a David Bowie box and tied with a diva bow. His songs are glam rock and I can’t wait to put a fresh spin on the character and give him new life.”

The principal cast includes Lindsey Cardoza as Florence, Jim Brown as Molokov, Madison Galloway as Svetlana, Wayne Myers as Walter, Matt Clifton as Arbiter, Brad Bishop as Gregory Vassy, Serenity Earich as Young Florence, and Naman Clark as Nikolai.

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“This show is a challenge because the music is difficult and the content is somewhat dated,” added director Carrie Thurston. “But I think what I would like the audience to take away from the show is that there are always going to be people who want something from you or try to manipulate things for their own good. You have to be true to yourself.”

“Chess” continues Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and today and next Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Clark Haines Theatre (Kettering Board of Education Building) 3750 Far Hills Ave., Kettering. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and military, and $8 for students. For tickets or more information, call 1-888-262-3792 or visit www.playhousesouth.org.

‘GREASE’ IS THE WORD AT UD

Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s popular 1972 musical “Grease,” a tale of friendship and romance between close-knit teenagers at Rydell High in 1959, will be collaboratively presented by the University of Dayton’s Department of Music and the Theatre, Dance, and Performance Technology Program Nov. 10-12.

“This show is just so much fun,” said director Linda Dunlevy, whose artistic team includes choreographer Amy Jones. “It’s lighthearted and energetic with a great boy-meets-girl story people have loved in musical theater for years. And although the script calls for 18 actors we have enlarged the cast in order to have a fuller chorus for ensemble numbers such as ‘Beauty School Dropout’ and ‘We Go Together.’”

“We were not surprised by the great audition turnout for ‘Grease’ because this is a beloved musical,” said Michelle Hayford, UD’s Theatre, Dance and Performance Technology Program Director. “The Theatre, Dance, and Performance Technology faculty and the Music faculty felt strongly that we needed to cast as many students as we could. It’s been another successful collaboration between TDP and Music that supports students in the most comprehensive way to do their best work and they are bringing it!”

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“Grease” notably marks Dunlevy’s swan song at UD after 24 years of service. She plans to retire in May.

“I’ve gotten to do everything from serious drama to musicals to Shakespeare at the University of Dayton and I have really appreciated that as a director,” she said. “I always found something to learn in every show I’ve done. I’ve always had an opportunity to grow here and it’s been wonderful working with the students who are constantly seeking growth themselves. I loved my time at UD.”

“Grease” will be performed Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in Boll Theatre of the Kennedy Union on campus, 300 College Park, Dayton. Tickets are $12 for general public and $8 for UD students and faculty. For more information, call (937) 229-3950 or visit https://www.udayton.edu/artssciences/academics/theatre/welcome/index.php.

ACTOR’S THEATRE RETURNS WITH STEINBECK CLASSIC

Formerly defunct Actor’s Theatre of Fairborn returns to the local arts scene with John Steinbeck’s classic 1937 drama “Of Mice And Men” Nov. 10-18.

The troupe’s first production as the Miami Valley’s newest community theater will feature Dan Donohue as George, Matthew E. Shober as Lennie, director Jim Harworth as Slim, Ken Sheets as Candy, Harry W. Shepard as The Boss, Stephen Callenberg as Curly, Jade McConnell’s as Curly’s Wife, Joseph Donahue as Carlson, David S. Peterson as Whit, and Roi D. Miller as Crooks.

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Originally built in 1921 as a silent movie theater, the venue has been unoccupied since 2009 until Harworth, a Xenia business owner, bought the theater earlier this year.

Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Reservations can also be made by calling the theater at (937) 878-3353. Actor’s Theatre of Fairborn is located at 23 E. Main St. in downtown Fairborn.