'Art' opens season at Totem Pole

June 05, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - For the first time in 53 years of professional summer theater, Totem Pole Playhouse is air-conditioned.

But there's good news for audience members who like the piney fragrance that wafts through the wooden louvers of the theater nestled in Caledonia State Park. Those louvers still can be opened to the mountain breezes.

The air conditioning wasn't needed for the Saturday, May 31, season opener - "Art," directed by Carl Schurr, Totem Pole's producing artistic director. The show will be performed evening through Sunday, June 15.

Schurr stars as Serge, who has bought an expensive, all-white painting. His friend Mark (Wil Love) considers the painting a joke. The pair pulls friend Ivan (Jay Edwards) into the discussion.


"It is a story of friendship," Schurr says of the comedy, which won theater awards in France and England and a Tony on Broadway.

Friendship also plays a major role offstage at Totem Pole Playhouse.

Traci Lyn Thomas and Shirleyann Kaladjian will co-star in the female version of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple," which begins its two-week run July 15.

Thomas started at Totem Pole in 1986 as an intern; Kaladjian first performed in "Quilters" in 1987. That's the year the two met, and, although Thomas lives in California and Kaladjian in New York, they are best friends and talk on the telephone nearly every day. They have performed in Totem Pole plays together but never have spoken dialogue to each other on stage.

"We've been dying to do something together," Thomas says.

Other players also are returning to the Totem Pole stage. Tess Hartman, a veteran of many seasons, will be back. Sherry Skinker, who has acted on the Playhouse stage in more than 25 productions, will return. Love, the company's associate artistic director, is marking his 33rd season at the theater in the woods. It's Schurr's 28th year at Totem Pole, and Hagerstown native Paul Mills Holmes, the production stage manager, is beginning his 28th year behind the scenes. He also is guest set designer for "Art" and "Oil City Symphony."

As in its previous 52 years, Totem Pole's season will have something for everyone, farce, comedy, mystery and music.

Thanks to that new air conditioning, audiences will be cooler on hot summer nights. But there's not much chance that the warmth of the Totem Pole "family" will cool.

Kaladjian says she met her best friend and her husband, Alex Webb, at Totem Pole.

"Carl and Wil are family," she says. They do really good work. "I'm proud to be in a play there."

The Herald-Mail Articles