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Actor to take on new role as Totem Pole's artistic director

February 28, 2008|By DON AINES

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - Carl Schurr and Wil Love have been synonymous with the Totem Pole Playhouse for decades, first as actors and in more recent years as the men behind the scenes of the summer stock theater's productions.

Schurr, the theater's producing artistic director, and Love, its associate artistic director, are not ending their relationship with the theater, but are beginning transitions to new roles as actor Ray Ficca was named the new artistic director, a role he will take over in September.

A performer at the theater for the past three seasons, Ficca, 41, is a graduate of Georgetown University and the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, both in Washington, D.C. He has been president of the conservatory since 2006 and will retain that position, he said.

"I will watch Carl and Wil this summer like a hawk and figure out what to steal from them," Ficca said of the 2008 season, which begins May 31 with "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure." This is the theater's 57th season.

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"The live theater has always had the same challenge ... It has to happen every single night with live people," Ficca said. "It is expensive."

Totem Pole has earned a national reputation for excellence in the theater industry as the "Cadillacs of summer stock," Ficca said. In his new role, Ficca will be concerned not only with hiring the best actors, technicians and staff, but finding the public and private resources to keep the nonprofit theater thriving, he said.

"Artistically, there are a lot of newer plays, more contemporary plays, that are being written regionally," Ficca said of what he sees for the theater's future. The 2009 season will be his first as artistic director.

Love has been with Totem Pole since 1971, when a friend told him about an ad for a resident actor at a playhouse. Schurr came aboard as a guest actor and director in 1975, hired by the late owner William H. Putch, the husband of actress Jean Stapleton.

Following Putch's death in 1983, Schurr became the artistic director.

"For well over 30 years, Totem Pole has been incredible for Wil and me," Schurr said. "We're not going to be retiring. We're just going to be pursuing other parts of our lives."

Both men will be available to act and direct at the theater, Schurr said.

"I never thought I'd see the day I was here 38 years," Love said. "Year after year, I kept coming back like the swallows of Capistrano, I guess."

"Now, I'm playing to people's grandchildren," Love said about the generations of audiences that have attended Totem Pole's plays and musicals.

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