In 1980, 35 years ago, Warren Kliewer founded East Lynne Theater Company after extensive research and the discovery that there were no professional theaters in this country dedicated to the performance, study and preservation of America's 200-year-old theatrical heritage. He named his Equity professional company after a popular late-nineteenth century American play. Based, ironically, on an English novel, "East Lynne" was the "Downton Abbey" of its day.

Kliewer, who served as artistic director from 1980-1998, wrote, "In almost any other civilized country in the world, audiences can see performances drawn from the 16th century -- even farther back in some countries. But no other company in the United States is attempting to revive plays and entertainments of our own past."

This country has a rich theatrical history, and the current artistic director, Gayle Stahlhuth is ready to serve some of it up in her usual conversational and entertaining manner, on Saturday, March 28 at 7:00 p.m., under the title "Theater: As American as Apple Pie." The location is The First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes St., Cape May, where the company is in residence, and admission is free.

Stahlhuth was selected by ELTC's board to helm the company in 1999 after Kliewer passed away. She had a history with the company since the beginning as a performer and playwright, and served on the board for ten years. Also a lover of history, the mission of ELTC to bring American classics and new works based on American literature and history to the stage, is a natural fit for her. She believes in the philosophy of famous historian David McCullough who wrote: "A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia."

This event is just one of many events that are included in New Jersey Theatre Alliance's (NJTA) Stages Festival. As usual, ELTC is very involved with this annual festival, with shows on the road, lectures and educational outreach. The final ELTC "Stages" performance is "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" on Tuesday, March 31 at 7:00 p.m. at The West Cape May Elementary School, 301 Moore St. After only seven rehearsals, 5th and 6th grade students perform an adaptation of the Mark Twain classic under Stahlhuth's direction.

The Stages Festival is the state's largest annual theater festival, offering over 100 performances, workshops, and events at professional theaters, arts centers, schools, and other community venues. To receive a full schedule and learn about the sponsors for these events, visit www.stagesfestival.org. To learn more about NJTA, visit www.njtheatrealliance.org,

To learn more about East Lynne Theater Company, including its mainstage season, special events, and educational outreach, go to www.eastlynnetheater.org, e-mail eastlynneco@aol.com, or call 609-884-5898.


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