BWW Blog: Stone Bridge Players
How many of us have had the opportunity to work in an unconventional theater space? To strip down bare, take away all the commodities that a traditional theater has, and perform a show in a unique space with a simple sound system and just a few par-cans? One local theatre company in Johnstown, PA has been doing just that. The Stone Bridge Players Theatre company performs every summer right in the middle of downtown on the third floor of the local Flood Museum.
The Johnstown Flood Museum was created from a former library in the town to commemorate the famous "1889 Johnstown Flood" that devastated the entire town. Nestled into the third (and top) floor of the building is the home of the local company. Director Rodney Eatman said, "We've had the opportunity to perform in other local venues such as the Arcadia Theater (in Windber, PA) and at the Heritage Discovery Center, but the flood museum has been our home for the past several seasons." This season marks the 8th year for the company, but this year in particular was interesting for the company as they put on 2 productions running at the same time.
With rehearsals that began in early May, SBP brought in 19 local actors from high school age to 50+ to put on the productions of "Quartermaine's Terms" and "It Runs in the Family."
Dr. Paul Douglas Newman, an actor and dialogue coach who was involved in both shows, said when asked what it was like having to learn two very different roles simultaneously, "It was a balancing act. The two different characters had several similarities, but the shows and situations themselves were very different. I would make it a point to rehearse each character in separate places to have them each in their own mindset." Newman took on the roles of Eddie Loomis in Quartermaine's Terms, and Sir Willoughby Drake in It Runs in the Family, as well as assisting several actors on diction since the shows were set in England.
Director Dr. Rodney Eatman said when asked what it was like to direct two shows said, "It was thrilling and professionally challenging to do both productions. Being able to have a company and crew that was understanding when things would get confusing was a huge benefit."
One of the many benefits to this company is that they have a lot of younger actors getting involved. I asked Kyra Kozielc-Gilmore (Melanie, Quartermaine's Terms) who has been working with Eatman for 35 years, what keeps bringing her back? "I started working with Dr. Eatman when I was a student at Pitt-Johnstown, and I think as any actor will tell you, the love for the craft is what continues to bring anyone back. If you love something enough, you'll never want to quit."
I personally had the opportunity to work lights and sound with this company for this year AND last year during their production of Harvey. It's very interesting to see how a group of people can switch over the set every two nights and create an entirely different world and unique experience for the audience members. As a student who is used to working in a theater with everything readily available, I've made it my goal for this summer to expose myself to as much "untraditional" theater as possible.
One of this season's stage managers, Kalyn Blake, comes from a similar background. "I got my Theatre degree from Mount Aloysius, and have worked in several traditional theaters including Cresson Lake Playhouse in Loretto, PA. Being able to have the opportunity to do theatre in such a different and unique space is something that not many people get to experience."
When I asked Eatman what is in store next for the company he said, "He's not completely sure what is on the table for next season, but it's going to be fun."