How do you judge a community’s vitality? Certainly by its economy, job offerings, population, the range of ages represented.
But a factor that is sometimes forgotten when appraising community health is its cultural opportunities. We are fortunate in the North Country to have four universities that host plays, music performances, lectures and more.
But beyond that, local arts and theater groups around the area are responsible for many of the cultural activities we enjoy. Think, for example, of the immense talent exhibited by the theater groups in our area.
The Depot Theatre, which performs in a theater tucked inside the Westport railroad station, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. The first production was staged there in 1979, and area residents have been treated to numerous summer performances where professional and local actors share their talents. Its season will kick off with the musical “Route 66” from June 28 to July 14. If you haven’t seen what Depot Theatre can do within the confines of its small stage, you are missing something amazing.
In Saranac Lake, Pendragon Theatre has been dazzling audiences since 1981. Productions are offered year round, not only at the theater on Brandy Brook Avenue but in sites around the North Country. Pendragon’s offering this weekend is “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.”
Along with those acting companies, which have established theaters from which to entertain us, the North Country is blessed with many community theater groups, including Adirondack Community Theatre, based in Plattsburgh; North Franklin Theatre Group in Malone; Chazy Music Theatre; and Community Theatre Players, based at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, one of the best host sites for performances. Through these groups and others, local people of all ages share their acting, singing and dancing ability.
Before long, Plattsburgh will have a new site for local performances: the Strand Theatre. The historic facility has been undergoing renovations for years now. Several productions have already been held there — and Quartetto Gelato set for June 8 — but another $500,000 is needed to finish restoration and get the building ready for regular use.
Some people are frustrated with the time it is taking, but we urge patience. The A1 photo in Thursday’s Press-Republican showing seat installation at the Strand raises hope that the end is in sight. With a final burst of work and donations, a glorious new performing arts center will reinvigorate downtown.
We are fortunate to have Broadway-caliber productions in Montreal and Burlington. But we don’t have to drive even that far to see professionally executed shows offered at very reasonable prices.
Community theater is right around the corner. So grab a seat, be there when the curtain goes up and prepare to be impressed.