O’Hara’s Stage Right theater unveils new name | TribLIVE.com
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Tawnya Panizzi

It’s a big year for Stage Right Performing Arts & Education.

The group marked 55 years of community theater with a move to a new home at Aspinwall Riverfront Park and announced this week that there will be a name change as well.

The new moniker — Riverfront Theater Company — will make its debut Aug. 1 when actors hit the stage for the Young Artist Summer Theater production ofThe 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

“Our rebranding efforts come after a long and rich community history in the Fox Chapel and surrounding areas,” Jenna Hayes, vice-president and educational director, said.

“Riverfront Theater Company speaks to our commitment to produce shows for our river-loving Pittsburgh community,” she said.

The new identity also alleviates a long-standing confusion with a similar group in Westmoreland County, Stage Right Greensburg, Hayes said.

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After a grassroots start in the early 1960s as the Faux Paw Players, the group changed its name to the Fox Chapel Community Players and performed in the garage of a home in O’Hara’s Falconhurst plan.

With growing popularity, it moved to O’Hara Elementary School, changed its name to Stage Right and settled into its longtime home at Boyd Community Center (now the Lauri Ann West Community Center.)

“Their performance space was in the gymnatorium at Boyd and it did well for what it was,” Aspinwall resident Jim Froehlich, president, said.

“Stage Right existed as a niche community theater group that catered mostly to the Fox Chapel community for many years.”

Jamie McDonald, director of publicity, said 2018 was a year of changes, with new leadership and a recentered focus.

“Stage Right has focused on developing programs for our young artists and we have also developed a Junior Board of Directors, comprised of area high schoolers with a passion for theater arts,” McDonald said.

“The past three years have been particularly exciting with the production of several sell-out shows.”

Aspinwall Riverfront Park is a 10-acre campus at 285 River Ave.

Its open-air marina building is a dynamic facility with river views and a smaller stage among the park’s native plants.

“This opportunity was a true blessing for us,” Froehlich said.

“Bold choices will be made, new friendships will be forged and our vision will include becoming a regional destination for actors, directors and audiences from all over Pittsburgh.”

The group considered several names but agreed unanimously on Riverfront Theater Company, he said.

“The name allows us to be regional and nimble anywhere in the three rivers geography while breaking away from the old-school stigma of years past when seasons were two Neil Simon comedies and an edgier drama.”

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the Tony Award-winning musical, will run Aug. 1-4 and will be performed by a cast of teens from the region along with a live pit orchestra.

The fast-paced comedy is based on a book by Rachel Sheinkin and a vibrant score by William Finn.

McDonald also announced the line-up for the 2020 season, in addition to a special November event that will see the comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” performed over two weekends.

Next year’s productions are scheduled to include the musical “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” in February, the drama “Proof” in March, the catchy “Back to the 80’s” in August and the large-cast musical “Urinetown” in November.

For more information, visit stagerightpgh.org.

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