Thursday, February 9

New hope for community theater in Greene County | Entertainment

Last December when the Denny House staged a Christmas program of singing and dramatic readings in its Carriage House, Bret Moore sat in the audience enjoying the performance.

Soon, he began pondering the idea of the possibility of staging live community theater productions in the Waynesburg venue.

Greene County has a community theater history dating back at least to 1968 when the Greene Theater Players performed “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” staring Charles Berryhill, an English teacher at Waynesburg Central High School.

With the idea of resuscitating community theater in the county, Moore, theater director at McGuffey High School for 30 years before he retired in 2015, thought the Denny Carriage House would be a good venue. For one, he said, the acoustics are great, and the space can hold an audience of about 100.

“We could do one acts on a simple small stage with simple sets, simple lighting and modern costumes,” he said.

Moore’s idea for live theater became a reality on April 30 when he and the newly minted Carriage House Players staged “An Evening of Dinner and Entertainment.” Sitting around tables in the Carriage House, the audience dined on an extensive menu of foods prepared by the Aladdin Food Service, provider of food for Waynesburg University.

Hosted by Edward L. Powers, professor of theater and director of the Waynesburg University Theatre Program, the event included four amiably absurdist vignettes, two dramatic readings and a musical interlude.

Several of the performances were by playwright David Ives, works Moore called “a little off-beat.” Powers also performed two readings.

“We’re hoping when people see us, they’ll support us,” Moore said. “If it goes well, we’d like to make it a regular event couple times a year.”

After he retired from teaching, Moore started working as Greene County’s director of community service for the courts. Since 2000, he has been the county’s director of recreation.

As a student at Waynesburg High School, Moore went on a student outing with Berryhill, his teacher, to a one-act theater festival in Bucks County. Later, as theater director at McGuffey, he took his students to the same event several times, where the group earned a Best Play title once and Best Actor and Actress titles several times.

With the support of the Greene County community, Moore hopes to continue the county’s theater history. With 10 friends of the theater already onboard, the Carriage House Players hope to bring live community theater back to the Denny Carriage House.

Considered a vestige of the Victorian Age, the 1836 Denny House was painstakingly preserved and renovated last October by Kent and Pam Marisa. Part of their renovation project was to turn the Carriage House into a venue that would be able to host multiple types of events, including live theater.

The Carriage House has retained its Victorian feel with chandeliers, original brick walls and a new door with old wood and old hardware.

“It’s a good fit for what we hope to do in the future,” Moore said.

While live theater continues to be produced by the Waynesburg University Theater Department, and local high schools also perform plays as a student extracurricular activity, the last community theater production in Greene County was a staging of “Little Shop of Horrors” in 2000.

It’s a vacuum Moore hopes fill in the future by furthering the legacy of live community theater in the county.

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