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Greensburg Civic Theatre welcomes new director

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2002

When the stage door opened for Chuck Penick of Monroeville, he halfheartedly entered and embarked on a career that took him from dancing and acting to the director's chair.

As director of the Greensburg Civic Theatre's production of "Never Too Late," Penick will have auditions at 7 p.m. Monday at the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center, Old Salem Road, Greensburg. Performances of the light comedy are scheduled for March 8, 9, and 10.

A director since 1987, "Never Too Late" will mark Penick's first time working at the Greensburg theater.

"I started in theater in the early 1980s," Penick says. "I graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in communications and journalism, and I couldn't find a job. Then I got a call from a friend in the theater who needed dancers for a show. I agreed reluctantly."

To his surprise, Penick liked every aspect of theater work. He began taking acting classes at the now-defunct Pittsburgh Theater School.

"I had beginner's luck and got cast in the first few shows I auditioned for," he says. "Then, I moved into directing at the Robert Morris Colonial Theater in Moon Township."

The role of director seemed right to Penick. Through the years, he has directed shows at many theaters, including the McKeesport Little Theater, the Gemini Theater in Point Breeze and the now-defunct Sherwood Forest Theater. He returned to school and received a masters in theater arts with a focus on directing from the University of Pittsburgh. It was, Penick says, the best decision he ever made.

"The job of directing is competitive, but not as competitive at acting. Nothing is as competitive as acting," he says. "As a director, I'll go to a theater that calls and asks me to direct. If they are doing something that appeals to me, then I'll accept the job."

The comedy "Never Too Late" holds that certain appeal for Penick. He portrayed the son-in-law, Charlie, several years ago for Tom Madden Productions in Pittsburgh.

"Charlie's a bit of a dim bulb," Penick says. "He's a great deal of fun."

"Never Too Late" opened on Broadway in the early 1960s. It is the story of a middle-age couple who discover the wife is pregnant. The event turns the family into a tizzy.

"The couple's daughter and son-in-law have been trying to get pregnant, but unsuccessfully," Penick says. "It is a comedy with some serious undercurrents, yet it's handled in a light way. That's why I like it. The play is not dated. It's still a situation that can happen today. It's still relevant."

When Penick learned the Greensburg Civic Theatre was doing "Never Too Late," he contacted them and told the board of directors he was interested in directing the show.

"Because I was in the play, I always said I wanted to direct it," he says.

Now that Penick has the opportunity, he's looking for just the right actors.

"Basically, I'm looking for actors who are good with comedy. I don't want people who will play it superficially," Penick says. "I want people who will bring some depth to the characters. If you just play it silly, then you're missing or overlooking a lot in the play."

Actors who are interested in auditioning for "Never Too Late" should come with a prepared monologue.

"I can tell more from their acting if they bring something they're comfortable with," Penick says. "It's the kind of play you can have a lot of fun working on.

"The show is very warm, very charming with some physical comedy, some slapstick that I really enjoy directing. And there's that serious side. That's about as much as you can expect from any script. I can't wait to begin."

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