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Huron Playhouse partners with community

Alissa Widman Neese • May 22, 2013 at 2:49 PM

The Huron Playhouse has set the stage for a slew of new educational programs debuting this summer.

The nonprofit theater’s 65th season kicks off next month, beginning June 25 with the classic “The Wizard of Oz.”

The twofold goal of education and entertainment has always been the playhouse’s foundation, said Nancy Gibbons, its executive director.

Typically, however, education was restricted to college-aged company members participating in the productions.

Now playhouse leaders are expanding their offerings to community members, taking advantage of the big-city productions that dazzle local patrons each year.

The educational programs include:

•Artist in residence: Each season, a Broadway professional will work with the Huron Playhouse company and also teach classes within the community. This year’s artist is Karen Babcock.

•High school internships: A handful of students will receive hands-on training in technical and theatrical production.

•Meet-and-greet kickoff event: Community members can get a sneak peak at this year’s performers at “A Season Overture” June 13, an event with silent auctions, live entertainment, food and more at Mesenburg Plaza Place. Cost is $40.

•Summer camp field trip: Children participating in a Huron Parks and Recreation summer camp from July 15 to 19 will take a field trip to the Huron Playhouse.

“We want to encourage a different way of thinking,” Gibbons said. “We’ve always been called a summer theater, but we want to build more relationships and awareness in the community to really become a year-round entity.”

Anyone interested in participating in a program can call 419-433-4744 for more information.

Although this is the Huron Playhouse’s 65th season, it is only its third season as an independent nonprofit organization. Bowling Green State University supported the playhouse until 2011, when it withdrew its funding, citing cuts in state support. The playhouse now relies primarily on donations, grants and ticket sales to continue operating.

The newfound independence poses challenges, but also offers exciting opportunities, said Rob Smith, president of the playhouse’s volunteer board.

“We couldn’t have done many of these programs if we weren’t on our own,” Smith said. “We’re fortunate for the support we’ve received and now we’re looking to establish a long-range plan for sustainability. It’s our obligation to this community to stay alive.”

Huron Playhouse is Ohio’s oldest continuing summer theater. Performances take place at McCormick Middle School, 325 Ohio St., Huron. This year’s 30 or so company members, representing several colleges throughout the Midwest, will mostly live in a Huron Schools building while rehearsing their plays. Many playhouse alumni have catapulted to impressive theater careers.

This year’s lineup of five shows was carefully selected to accomodate a variety of audience members, Smith said. It incorporates both classic and contemporary elements to appeal to longtime patrons and newcomers alike.

“‘A Dangerous Corner,’ which was performed during the playhouse’s first season, is a 1930s play, but its message still resonates with people today,” Gibbons said. “We want to link back to our past while also focusing on our future.”

Upcoming productions:

•”The Wizard of Oz,” June 25-29

•”Dangerous Corner,” July 2-6

•”I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” July 9-13

•”Blithe Spirit,” July 16-20

•”Gypsy,” July 23-27

Ticket prices:

•Adults: $17

•Seniors/students: $15

•Children younger than 12: $13

•Groups of 10 or more: $12 (payment due one week in advance)

•Season pass: $80 ($75 if postmarked by May 31)

To purchase tickets call the box office at 419-433-4744 or visit the box office at 304 Williams St., 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. More information is also available at www.huronplayhouse.org.

Online tickets:

The Huron Playhouse will soon offer online ticket purchases for the first time in its history.

Playhouse leaders hope the online option — supported by a recently purchased database system — will increase early sales and provide easier access for customers, said Nancy Gibbons, the playhouse’s executive director.

“We want to increase flexibility and build a relationship with our audience,” Gibbons said. “In the next couple years, we’ll be able to track someone’s preferred shows to provide special offers and a more personal touch.”

Artistic director Brian Neal is still finalizing the system, but it should be ready by the end of the month, Gibbons said. Visit www.huronplayhouse.org, the playhouse’s recently updated website, for more information or to purchase tickets when the service is available.

Long-time patrons, don’t fret — if you wish, you can still purchase your tickets in-person by visiting the box office.

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