Stage set for Tyrone theater

The Tyrone Community Players are gearing up for their 30th season, and the troupe is celebrating by counting down to the grand opening of their new theater building.

Cindy Bennett, one of the groups’ founders, said the theater, located at the old Tyrone Library building at 1019 Logan Ave., should be open in the fall of 2016. Seeing it progress is one of the best gifts she could’ve gotten for the company’s pearl anniversary.

The players originally had a space in the Tyrone YMCA, which was nearly destroyed in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan. The troupe has moved between locations since then.

“This means that we can have a home again,” Bennett said. “We’ll have more time to really spend on the details, and we can make it very comfortable for our audience, which we sometimes have problems with when we’re moving around.”

The Tyrone Community Players also will host an open house in September to give the community its first look at the new theater building.

Details on the exact date are forthcoming, but Bennett said she is excited for the troupe’s fans to get a look at the building, though the construction looks messy.

“People can come in and see exactly what we’re doing,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to walk in, even in the middle of the mess.”

Nancy Sloss, the group’s secretary, said that the new building will open up ” a whole new world” for the players, who will not have to spend as much time hauling needed sets, props and other items between locations.

She said that the group currently builds sets and then moves them either to the rented rehearsal space or the performance space, which rotates. This gives them fewer days to work with the set pieces and to make needed adjustments to them or to the staging.

“It just makes the whole process so much easier but more fun, too,” Sloss said.

Sloss said the new theater is not huge, but expects that playgoers will appreciate “the intimacy of the performance space.”

Bennett said that some items from the previous space at the YMCA had been salvaged and were repurposed for the new theater. A chandelier from the old theater will hang in the lobby of the new building, and the old curtain will also be used in the construction.

She said that there also will be rotating artwork hung in the lobby, and that many of those works will be from local, Tyrone-based artists.

Bennett said that some artists have already been contacted about also doing original artwork for the theater to debut.

The Tyrone Community Players are also keeping fans updated on the construction through Facebook, by sharing photos and news as the project continues. Bennett said the group has not yet directly solicited funds for the construction, and have raised about 30 percent of the needed costs through extra shows and other fundraising methods. She said the troupe chose not to take out a loan to front the costs of construction, but instead are paying as the funds are raised, to avoid borrowing money.

Bennett said the Players faced tough economic times, though, and is proud to see them make it to their 30th year.

“I’m really proud of the organization,” she said. “They keep their nose to the grindstone, and they do what they have to do to reach our ultimate goal.”

Sloss said the economy has been one of the group’s major obstacles, but the members’ desire to continue pushes the Players forward.

“It’s such a great outlet for imaginations,” she said. “We all have these imaginations that you can’t squelch. We can’t be held down.”

Though the troupe has, for the most part, weathered the economic storm, Bennett said its leaders were aware that many members of the community were not so lucky. She said that helped them decide what shows to put on for the coming season.

The major shows for this year are comedies, she said, because the troupe thought people might need a laugh.

“Our upcoming season is called a ‘laugh out loud’ season,” Bennett said. “We’re doing shows that are lighthearted because it’s been a rather dismal year for a lot of people financially, and they want to laugh.”

“Just because our basic shows are going to be lighthearted,” she added, “that doesn’t mean they’re not sophisticated or hard to do – but they’ll definitely make you smile and laugh.”

There will also be a little something for the kids this year, Bennett said. Aside from the traditional children’s plays, the Tyrone Community Players will be offering “Cardboard Corner Saturdays,” where local children can come and assist the Players in designing sets and costume pieces like hats, and then they can enjoy a show put on just for them.

Bennett said that though it took some time over the Players’ 30-year history for Tyrone residents to get used to the idea of having a regular theater troupe, they’ve really taken to it.

“We’ve had to educate the community from the first day about theater,” she said. “There was a theater company here in the ’30s and ’40s, and with the advent of television a lot of theater companies haven’t survived, so our community hasn’t been used to a live theater, but they’ve been so supportive. It’s been a real part of the recreation here.”

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.