One Show at a Time
On Wednesday, the cast of School House Rock will lug all their sets and props out of the Pakachoag Church Great Hall and over to the Riley-Pappas Pavilion for dress rehearsals. “We’ve been inside the whole time” says Christine Taylor. “It will be nice to go out, the lighting and setting at the pavilion can create some challenges.”
The Great Hall at Pakachoag Church has been home base for Auburn Community Players and their productions since 2012, when they first performed “A Christmas Carol”. “Pakachoag has been so supportive” says Taylor. “We’re here because of them, letting us use the space and providing financial assistance to get it going.”
This isn’t Pakachoag Church’s first foray into the arts. Pakachoag was renowned in the area for its fine music programs for many years. They also started Pakachoag Community Music School in 1982 as a mission and outreach of the Church. The school has since changed its name to Pakachoag Music School of Greater Worcester to reflect its expanded reach, and has become an independent organization.
This is the sort of incubation Pakachoag hopes to realize from Auburn Community Players. Executive Director and experienced thespian Christine Taylor has long envisioned an accessible community theater program based in Auburn. After a couple years running programs both for Pakachoag Music School and Auburn Recreation and Culture, Taylor knew the time was right.
“We had such overwhelming response” says Taylor. “I approached the church board at Pakachoag [where Taylor is a member] and said ‘I’d like to do a theater program’ and they said ‘OK, here you go’.”‘
The first production in 2012 was Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. It was open to anyone: children, adults, families. There were about 20 performers and it was a fabulous success. “Three performances completely sold out, and every performer asked ‘What’s next?'” said Taylor.
The following summer of 2013 saw the first youth summer theater program, ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ 34 students took part, more than Taylor expected. Since then, ACP has performed ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’, ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’, ‘Willy Wonka’ and this week’s ‘School House Rock Live”.
The group has also performed on stage at the Riley-Pappas Pavilion, performing Broadway favorites and another show featuring Disney songs. Both performances were part of the
Summer in the Park series and both were very well attended.
This summer, nearly 50 students participated in the youth summer theater program performing Willy Wonka. Unfortunately there is a practical limit on the numbers of kids they can have in a production. But Taylor is proud of the fact that ACP – with help from Pakachoag Church – does not turn anyone away for financial reasons. In fact, the past 2 year, ACP has reached out to Auburn Youth and Family Services to offer slots to students who may not otherwise get the opportunity to participate in theater. “I want it to be accessible, it’s a community theater” says Taylor.
While ‘School House Rock Live’ looms for the cast and crew who are scrambling to put on finishing touches, the rest of ACP is looking toward fall, and hopefully another holiday-themed production. And at least the younger performers are already looking to next summer, when – rumor has it – ACP’s summer program will be The Little Mermaid.
That’s a lot to look forward to.