Geyer celebrates silver anniversary
When the borough of Scottdale was enjoying its birth and quick development, dozens upon dozens of fabulous homes were erected to house the officials and the workers that took part in the growing industry of the area.
With many new families now settling in the borough, shops, churches and businesses of all kinds were necessary to satisfy the growing population and its needs, and in 1900, Andrew Geyer, a borough resident and the son of a town businesses filled the one niche that was needed to round out the town and its vision to both satisfy residents and draw more interest to the town.
Geyer built the Geyer Opera house, and for many years, the establishment enjoyed wonderful success, changing its name, changing ownership and adapting to the changing of times.
“There is a lot of history here,” said Brad Geyer, Geyer Performing Arts Center board president. “It is special because it is a place to hone artistic abilities and to others is a place to make friends and meet new people. For me, it's all of those reasons, but most important is my family history with the building's construction and original ownership.”
After welcoming the new “talking” movies, vaudeville acts, and other forms of entertainment for decades, the theater began to lose its attraction and was then used only for public meetings, until sadly, in 1971, the doors to the grand theater were closed and shuttered.
In 1987, the non-profit group Scottdale Showtime Inc, took interest in the theater and with its dozens of dedicated volunteers, breathed new life into the classic venue, once again welcoming patrons to enjoy stellar entertainment.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the theater, and venue officials are thrilled to be offering a top-notch schedule, including the staging of the musical “Man of La Mancha,” which was the first musical performed in the theater after its rebirth and reopening.
“We have a great season planned,” Geyer said. “Big shows that can have large casts are the cornerstones of the year. Our first show ‘My Son Pinocchio' has a cast of 60 people, and our last regular season theatrical show is ‘Man of La Mancha.' La Mancha was the first show that reopened in the theater in 1988 so it's great to bring that show back, to remember the beginning.”
Other shows include “The Curious Savage,” “Wizard of Oz” and “Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Shows are performed by different groups in the theater, but the original in-house acting group Actors and Artists of Fayette County is still thriving, putting on several shows every year, with the actors enjoying the many updates and upgrades that the theater has experienced.
“There have been many changes over the years,” AAFC President Karen Snyder said. “When I first started doing shows there, there were no microphones and only a piano in the pit. Reservations were written by hand and patrons chose their seats and pulled their tickets as they stood at the counter.“
Snyder added the number of shows also has increased, offering even more entertainment to the public.
“There were also fewer shows, especially musicals,” Snyder said. “When I first became involved, there was usually only one summer musical and maybe another smaller musical at another time of year. Last year, there were six musicals.”
The theater is not only an outlet for artists and a venue for patrons, but also has served as a community asset in other ways.
“The theater is a special place because people of all ages and from all walks of life are welcome to come and participate in doing what they love which is to produce and perform in shows,” Snyder said. “Theater people become like a second family. When my children were young they thought of the theater as their ‘home away from home.'”
Geyer said that the theater has experienced many upgrades and “face lifts” over the years and more improvements are on the horizon.
“The biggest project on the horizon is our rigging system,“ Geyer said. “The theater is in need to a new rigging system which will cost nearly $250,000. The rigging system is the ropes and pulleys that hold the stage curtains and lights above the stage. The system is old, original to the building, and needs updated with a modern counter-weight system. This is help us with all of our productions because we can utilize more drops.”
Theaters have come and theaters have gone, but the Geyer Performing Arts Theater will happily be ringing its silver anniversary with an impressive schedule for this year, with plans for even more to come.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I say it takes a community to support a theater and ours does,” Geyer said. “We have tremendously loyal volunteers who come to help us in all corners of the theater from ushering, to cleaning, to program stuffing. They are there. Also, as a community theater all of our actors, directors and musicians are also volunteers.”
The first event will take place at the theater on Jan. 19 and will be the local rendition of the Tony Awards, called the “Tottie awards”
“The Tottie Awards will kick off our 25th Season. Named in honor of Marilyn ‘Tottie' Kiefer and the event recognizes the stage productions, much like the Tony's,” Geyer said. “This year we will get to honor many of those who were instrumental in the reopening of the theater in 1988 along with our performers and production staff.”
For a full listing of the theater's upcoming shows, visit the website at www.geyerpac.com.
Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.