Today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch has the details about the group, which is (as far as I know) the first attempt at establishing a professional theatre group in Huntington. There hasn't been anything like that since the old Mountaineer Dinner Theatre.
The difference between a professional theatre group and community theatre is that the latter uses volunteers, most of them taking part without pay, while the former uses professionally trained actors and everyone gets paid for their work.
There have been a few attempts toward creating such a group in Huntington in the past, but this is the first one to actually raise the funds and find a location to put on its shows. It's an exciting prospect for local theatre fans, and it'll be interesting to watch the group grow in the years ahead.
Here's the story by my pal Dave Lavender:
When Debbie Wolfe began working at the Pullman Plaza Hotel a few months ago, she would walk into the Grand Theatre room and couldn't help but imagine something more than just hosting the occasional wedding and the Rotary Club's weekly lunch-time meeting.
The professionally trained actress and singer and regional theater veteran recalled the room in its former incarnation, The Club Pompeii, and envisioned some more lights and action.
While they won't be bringing back the Pompeii's volcano, Wolfe and a few dozen folks in Huntington's deep theater community, are launching the Pullman Plaza Playhouse, an intimate, and in-the-round downtown dinner theater.
With a goal of being a professional-quality dinner theater company, the Playhouse is launching now with two upcoming shows set for the fall.
The 25th Annual Spelling Bee will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, and Oct. 1-2, with Sunday matinees scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sept. 26, and Oct. 3.
And Little Shop of Horrors will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on the evenings of Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29-30, and Nov. 5-6, with an additional midnight showing on Saturday, Oct. 30, and a Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7.
Wolfe, who has worked in professional theater productions around the country, and who also has children involved in professional theater, said they hope to successfully launch the Playhouse this fall, and then build up to the point of hosting Friday and Saturday dinner theater with actors getting paid for their work.
Wolfe said while there are many other theater companies in the area, they hope to build up to being a regular, professional dinner theater not unlike the Mountaineer Dinner Theater that ran from 1971 to 1984 in Teays Valley.
"We have such an unusual concentration of artists and talent, and I have cast shows all over the country and there is just an inherent musicality about this area," Wolfe said. "Look at the disproportionate number of country music stars from the area. It is just a shame that singers and actors have to go away from the area to make a living."
Wolfe said the hotel has given the theater group the space to try out the dinner theater to see if they can make it work, and the hotel will be providing meal service to the dinner theater as well.
Since tossing out the idea, many area theater supporters such as Marina Jurica, Paul Neace and others have come on board to help launch the endeavor.
Shayne Gue, director of the ARTS (Arts Resources for the Tri-State) All-Star Show Choir and a veteran of many Huntington Outdoor Theatre (H.O.T.) and youth theater productions, is the president of the board for the Playhouse.
"We have the room, we have the lights, we have a theater and now we've got to prove it," Wolfe said. "We want to bring this corner of downtown back to life and anything that people can give us in terms of energy and bucks is appreciated. We know there are folks who would like to see this be what it can be."
Producing the first two shows is area theater veteran Paul Neace, who just came off of a July of starring in H.O.T.'s version of Annie.
Neace, who works at Connoisseur Media, said they are throwing everything they have into these shows, the first of which goes up in just about a month.
"We're not going to do this halfway," Neace said addressing a crowd of about 30 at an informational meeting on Monday, Aug. 9. "We are committed for the long haul, and we're going to give it all the elbow grease we can muster."
For the first show, the Playhouse is getting some technical assistance from John Wolfe, a senior Music-Dance-Theatre major at Brigham Young University, who oversaw this week's casting call with a fellow actor from Utah.
John Wolfe, who has been performing with the professional Hale Centre Theatre in Utah, is helping out while he is awaiting an eight-month contract performing aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam of Holland America Cruise Lines.
"I know a lot of people will say that it won't work but I'm in between shows at Hale, which started out in the middle of a desert in the an old lingerie warehouse and now has a $6 million budget," John Wolfe said. "It may seem tough to start out but we have much better conditions, and we have the talent that you've got to have."
Here's a closer look at the new Pullman Plaza Hotel Playhouse:
WHAT: A new professional-quality dinner theater company, which will begin presenting productions in September in the hotel's Grand Theatre. It will be renamed the Pullman Plaza Playhouse for the shows.
UPCOMING SHOWS: The 25th Annual Spelling Bee will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 1-2, with Sunday matinees scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sept. 26 and Oct. 3.
Little Shop of Horrors will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on the evenings of Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29-30, and Nov. 5-6, with an additional midnight showing on Saturday, Oct. 30, and a Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7.
CONTACT: For more information, call Shayne Gue at 304-412-0129 or Deborah Wolfe at 304-525-1001, e-mail at email@example.com or contact Gue through facebook or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
GET INVOLVED: The Pullman Plaza Playhouse is looking for show sponsors as well as playbill sponsors for its season. Show sponsorships range from $500 to $1,000; playbill sponsor ads run from $100, and a full season underwriter would be $7,500.
ON THE WEB: Go online at www.pullmanplaza.com for more info about overnight packages for the Playhouse shows.
FUNDRAISER: There will be a Starry Starry Night Fundraising concert with a cast of 22 singers at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12, at the Pullman Plaza Hotel. Tickets will be $30 for dinner and a show or $10 for show only.