Thursday, August 3, 2017
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The Oakland Center for the Arts was revived last year, and now it has found a home.
The community theater’s first full season since its comeback will be staged at Ford Family Recital Hall, in the DeYor Performing Arts Center downtown.
It will include seven productions, including “Six Degrees of Separation” and the musicals “Assassins” and “Carrie.”
Ford recital hall, which opened in 2006, is the newest theater in the city, and is certainly one of the nicest.
Patricia Syak, president of the Youngstown Symphony Society, which owns and operates the DeYor center, said she is pleased to welcome the Oakland. “We had been in discussions with the Oakland for some time and look forward to this relationship with them,” she said. “Ford is a wonderful place to present intimate productions.”
Syak said the move is a win-win situation not only for the Oakland and the symphony society, but also the theatergoing public. “The community will benefit,” she said.
The Oakland had been on the third floor of the Morley Building, also downtown, until financial problems forced it to close in 2015. Then a trio of veterans from the theater’s early days – Harold Davis, Brendan Byers and Kristina Terlecki – stepped up last summer and took control of the Oakland and now comprise its board of directors. They produced one play at the Jewish Community Center last year while trying to settle on a permanent location, and also produced several children’s musicals at Trinity Fellowship Church in Boardman.
Although it has a new board and a new home, the Oakland will stay the course in its programming. The theater always has been known for edgier fare, and it will continue in that vein.
“We are Youngstown’s off-Broadway theater,” said Byers. “That is our niche.”
The Ford recital hall has 300 seats on the floor and 300 more in the balcony, but the Oakland intends to only sell the floor seats. The old Oakland theater had about 140 seats.
Ticket prices are expected to be in the range of $18 for musicals and $16 for plays. Ticketing will be handled by the symphony society box office.
Another change is that shows will be produced for one weekend only, instead of the more typical two or three, at least in the first season.
The season will begin with “Sing,” on Sept. 8 and 9, a revue of Broadway music sung by the Youngstown Community Fellowship Choir and other local singers.
“Carrie,” a musical based on the 1976 horror movie, will be the Halloween offering, and will be presented Oct. 30 and 31 – a Monday and a Tuesday. The Oakland is collaborating with Millennial Theater Company on this show.
Two adult comedies by humorist David Sedaris, “Santaland Diaries” and “Season’s Greetings,” will be staged Dec. 5-6.
“History of ...,” a cabaret dinner-show will take place Jan. 20 in the Flad Pavilion, adjacent to Ford recital hall.
“The Awesome ’80’s Prom,” a loosely scripted show that relies heavily on audience interaction, will be staged April 20-21. Jennifer Pace, a Liberty native and one of the writers of the piece, will play a role in this production, which also will be performed at other area venues as a fundraiser for the Youngstown Symphony Society, which owns and operates the DeYor Performing Arts Center.
The season will close with Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Assassins” on June 27-30. Actors who appeared in the show the last time the Oakland staged “Assassins” are expected to reprise their roles, said Byers.
The Oakland’s youth theater season at Trinity Fellowship Church will include “Annie Jr.” in October; “The Hobbit” in January-February; “We Are the Dream: the Legacy of Martin Luther King” in February; and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in April.