Civic at 90: Gala celebration, capital campaign for 2017-18 season
To celebrate the 90th season, “The Secret Garden” is back at Civic Theatre of Allentown as is Civic’s celebrity capital campaign co-chair, star of television and screen, Christine Taylor, who, as a child, performed on Civic’s stage.
“It’s so fortuitous that it’s our 90th season, but we’re also closing and opening. It’s a birthday, but a new birth. There’ll be a grand re-opening,” says Civic Theatre Artistic Director William Sanders.
Civic Theatre”s 90th Anniversary Celebration Gala is 7 - 10 p.m. Oct. 27 at The NB Center for American Automotive Heritage, Allentown.
“The birthday means the world, not only to me, but the theater community,” Sanders says. “Civic Theatre was built on the talents and time of all the people who have worked there. And I think that’s a huge reason to celebrate and huge reason to renovate.”
The Nineteenth Street Theatre, Civic Theatre’s landmark performance facility, is a cultural magnet in the Lehigh Valley and the crown jewel of Allentown’s West End Theatre District. The Art Deco building is the focus of Civic’s capital campaign, “The Next Act: Setting the Stage for the Future.”
“The Secret Garden” opens Civic’s 2017-18 season Oct. 6. The musical continues through Oct. 22. Civic first staged “The Secret Garden” in 1993.
“That was part of the impetus because I thought for the 90th we should do something that we did previously,” says Sanders. “It’s a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary because its main scenes are of renewal and rebirth. I also think it offers some hope in, shall we say, troubled times. And it’s a great show for kids. And it’s one of my favorite books, too.”
The Civic 2017-18 season includes its annual main-stage production of “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 1 - 16, the Charles Dickens classic adapted for the stage by Sanders and Sharon Lee Glassman.
The second annual production of ”The Santaland Diaries,” By David Sedaris, adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello and with Jarrod Yuskauskas back starring in the one-man show, is Dec. 8 - 17, in Civic514.
Civic renovation work brings “Rock Of Ages,” with book by Chris D’Arienzo and featuring 1980s rock classics, including “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and “Don’t Stop Believing,” to the stage at Alumnae Hall Auditorium, Cedar Crest College, Allentown, Feb. 9 - 25, 2018.
The Civic Theatre School production of “Shrek The Musical Jr.” is April 5 - 7, 2018. “Prelude To A Kiss,” written by Craig Lucas, is May 4 - 20, 2018.
Of the use of the Crest stage while restoration continues at Civic Theatre, Sanders says, “It worked out really well. They [Cedar Crest] were more than willing to do a very generous partnership.”
At Civic, work has been underway in the Nineteen Street Theatre basement. The huge coal furnace was removed. Electrical work was begun. The theater will close temporarily when “A Christmas Carol” concludes its run. Movies and art exhibits will continue in Theatre 514. The Nineteenth Street Theatre is expected to reopen in fall 2018.
“Santaland” sold out its run in the 80-seat Theatre514 in 2017. “A Christmas Carol,” on the main stage, is a big draw in the 500-seat facility.
“Rock of Ages” will be in rehearsal at Crest three weeks before the show opens there. “That’s just a silly, fun rock show,” says Sanders. “That’s the crowd-pleaser. That’s the toe-tapper. It’s perfect for everyone who grew up on that music. It’s so much fun.”
Of “Prelude to a Kiss,” Sanders says, “It’s always been a favorite of mine. And it hasn’t been done in a very long time. I think it’s really resonant right now. I’m sure they’ll revive it in New York.”
Of Civic Theatre’s role in the Lehigh Valley theater scene, Sanders says, “I think that the theater community is very dense. And I think that’s wonderful.
“The commitment and quality has improved over the 30 years. That’s because everybody’s older and more experienced. I think we’re attracting a lot of theater artists to the area. I think it’s a very fertile scene.”
At Civic Theatre”s 90th Anniversary Celebration Gala, guests will be greeted by Christine Taylor, pose for pictures for the paparazzi, experience first-class entertainment, enjoy tantalizing hors d’ oeuvres and delectable desserts, be treated to some surprises, have an opportunity to bid on a three-year lease for a brand-new Jaguar donated by Bennett Automotive Group, and leave with a lovely swag bag.
The event honors Dr. Barry and Sharon Lee Glassman for their nearly 40 years of service to Civic Theatre. Dr. Glassman, a veteran performer at the theater and Board member, credits his theatrical experience to his success as an international speaker on the treatment of oral facial pain. Mrs. Glassman, an award-winning educator and lifelong lover of theater, served as Board president for 38 years before stepping down to co-chair Civic Theatre’s $5.5 million capital campaign.
“As we searched for the perfect venue in which to host our historic 90th celebration, we found an outstanding venue that not only honors history, but also appreciates journeys,” says Maria DeFebo Edwards, President of Civic’s Board of Directors. “We are proud and pleased to announce that our festivities will be held at The NB Center for American Automotive Heritage, a remarkable facility that houses an amazing collection of vintage automobiles.”
Civic’s mission to entertain, educate, enrich lives, and provide a venue for artists and audiences to explore their humanity and relevance in the world has underscored its nine decades of service to the community.
Throughout its long history, Civic has been home to thousands of aspiring artists, ardent students, dedicated volunteers, theater lovers, art film aficionados, and eclectic audiences.
Civic strives to achieve its mission by presenting locally-produced first-class theater, showing the finest independent films, and bringing the best performing arts instruction to the young people of the Lehigh Valley.
For tickets to Civic Theatre 90th Anniversary Celebration, contact Shirley Kline, Managing Director, firstname.lastname@example.org; 610-433-8903, ext. 213