It's been a bit of a tumultuous year for the Carbon/Schuylkill Community Theater, and one filled with a lot of changes.
In March, CSCT founder Janet Sager handed over the reins of the group to its members.
A veteran of the Broadway stage and longtime area teacher, choreographer, performer, director and costumer, Sager had been the driving force behind the theater group.
For close to 20 years she and her husband, Joel who also has some serious professional stage credits taught hundreds of children and adults how to dance, sing and act at The Studio in Jim Thorpe, and then in Lansford. Sager almost single-handedly produced numerous shows over the years, which were always well attended and well received.
In the spring of 2008 she created the Carbon/Schuylkill Community Theater, with the goal of providing quality theatrical productions and an outlet for members of the community to get involved in theater. Over the next couple years, CSCT produced several shows including two major musicals.
When Sager decided to step aside, her absence created a huge void. To try and fill that void, an interim board of directors was created to guide the group that had just lost its rudder. Officers and advisers were selected for a six-month period, and included Josiah Behrens, Jim Cimms, Teah Garrison, Drusilla Laughman, Barbara Maloney, Ryan Miorelli, Al Zagofsky, Bob Zellner and Sager, who served as an adviser.
The CSCT initially moved forward with plans to produce its annual evening of short plays. Advertising for submissions of 10-minute original plays attracted almost two dozen scripts, but auditions did not produce enough actors to play the parts, so the production was canceled.
Down but not out, the board bounced around a few ideas, held a couple workshops, and eventually decided to take some of the plays submitted in the spring and combine them with a few musical numbers, for a summer production entitled "Broadway on Broadway." The show was staged in the ballroom at the Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center in Jim Thorpe.
Gearing up to elect a regular slate of officers, the board decided to charge a $1 membership fee to those who wished to join CSCT. Only paid members were permitted to vote in the election. Those elected in September include Jonathan Rodgers, president; Marissa Miller, treasurer; Josiah Behrens, secretary; and Barbara Maloney and Zane Bachert as executive board members.
Rodgers is a graduate of Kutztown University, where he also earned a master's degree in social work. He is a partner in H.T.O. Services, Lansford. He has been involved with theater since middle school, when he began to study dance and voice at The Studio. He participated in musical theater in college, and while living in Florida was a vice president at Orlando Rising Star Production Company, which handled actors who filled in at Disney World as supplemental entertainment when a regular character was unable to perform.
"I think that's where I learned the business end of theater," says Rodgers, who also operates Musique Productions, his own theatrical production group.
He has experience in acting, directing, choreography, costuming and set design and creation.
Miller is currently studying psychology and English at Marywood University. She has been studying dance, voice and theater for 15 years.
"I think that, with enough hard work and determination, this group of talented people can make CSCT into something fantastic," she says. "It's now our job as a board, to basically take something brand new and transform it into a legacy, and that prospect is really exciting to me."
Bachert is a senior at Messiah College, where he is studying history and theater, with an emphasis on directing. At school he is currently preparing to direct his senior project. He has been involved with CSCT and Musique Productions for the past few years, as both an actor and directory. He was Pooh in Winnie the Pooh, and will portray the Ghost of Christmas Present in CSCT's upcoming show. He says he fell in love with theater after his first show eight years ago in high school, and has been involved in some way ever since.
"CSCT is a place where locals can display their talent," says Bachert. "It is a wonderful organization, and the new beginning we were given was a gift which must be cherished. In order for CSCT to survive we need people to continue to support us as we produce excellent works. We as an organization are constantly striving to be bigger, better, and bring some amazing theater to the local area."
Maloney has been involved with CSCT since it started, and for many years before its inception, she studied dance with Sager and performed in several shows under Sager's direction, including H.M.S. Pinafore, Pajama Game and Lucky Dollar Private Eye. She lived on Long Island until 1996 when she moved to Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. She is presently working as a para professional for CLIU 21 and is attending Lehigh Carbon Community College.
"CSCT provides an opportunity to be a part of a group of people who are trying to provide a creative experience for the community," says Maloney.
Although he is the youngest board member, Behrens has several theatrical credits. He is a freshman at Jim Thorpe Area High School, and has appeared in productions with CSCT and at JTAHS.
Rodgers says CSCT is hoping to produce three shows a year a drama or comedy in the spring and fall or winter, and a big musical in the summer.
He said the board has also discussed the possible goal of setting one of the performances as a fundraiser to support a different charity or organization each year.
CSCT is currently in the final rehearsals for its production of Dicken's A Christmas Carol, which will take place at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9-10 at the Summit Hill Heritage Center in Summit Hill. The cast includes several fresh, new faces as well as CSCT veterans. The age of performers is from 7 to mid-60s, which is exactly the type of span Rodgers would like to see.
"We don't have a target age range for casting performers," says Rodgers, "or for attracting audiences. We're very flexible." He encourages people of all ages to participate in a show, or come and see one.
"I really want to see CSCT harness the skills that we have in the area and put them out there. It doesn't have to be traditional. It just has to be good."