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Playmakers to open new theater

December 18, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

After spending two and a half seasons without a home stage, the Potomac Playmakers is ready for its debut.

The Academy Theatre Banquet & Conference Center -- formerly an old, empty warehouse downtown -- is now home to the Potomac Playmakers. The new building was unveiled in November.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Playmakers will present, "Timeless Memories, New Beginnings," its first string of performances on a home stage since its long-time venue, the Women's Club, caught fire.

"Timeless Memories" is a compilation of past music numbers. The cabaret-style revue will feature veteran Playmakers and a few newbies, said Ruth Ridenour, Playmakers president.

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The Potomac Playmakers is a Hagerstown-based community theater group that has provided a way for actors to pursue their passion and keep their day jobs.

"I couldn't teach, raise a family and be a professional actor," said actor and former board member Brian Heinrich, 54, of Hagerstown, who has been with the Playmakers for 26 years.

The theater troupe has also served as an artistic incubator for young thespians, Ridenour said. The group bills its productions as family-friendly.

"There might be an occasional 'damn' or 'hell,' but that's about it," Ridenour said.

The group plans to officially start its 83rd season Jan. 30 with "Something's Afoot."

The Playmakers had planned to move into the new theater in January 2008 but ended up producing its 2008 season elsewhere, according to past accounts in The Herald-Mail.

For decades, The Potomac Playmakers called the Women's Club home. But the Playmakers' stay there ended when an electrical problem sparked a fire in fall 2006.

But the theater group had problems before the fire. In fact, the idea to move came in the summer of 2006, Ridenour said. "If we didn't do something, we would have been out of business in three or four years," she said.

Audiences, which continued to shrink, were complaining about the "flat" and uncomfortable seating, Ridenhour said. The rent at the Women's Club was less -- at around $10,000 a year, compared with $2,000 a month at the new place.

But as the Playmakers' debt deepened, board members were thinking of ways to make the community theater more visible, Ridenour said.

Ridenour said the Academy Theatre Banquet & Conference Center is about the same size as the old stage, but it has wing space, which makes it easier to handle set changes. The new theater can also accommodate more people and has stadium-style seating.

Another plus: It's proximity to the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, a public high school in downtown Hagerstown expected to open for the 2009-10 school year.

"We always wanted to do summer intensives," Ridenour said. "Maybe we could offer those kids internships."

The new theater is also across the parking lot from the Washington County Playhouse & Dinner Theater, Ridenour said. But that's not a problem, either. There's room in the sandbox for everyone. "I'm not going to say people aren't going to get us mixed up -- we get that all the time," Ridenour said, laughing. "But we certainly aren't in this to compete with anyone."




If you go ...



WHAT: "Timeless Memories, New Beginnings," a musical revue presented by Potomac Playmakers.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22.

WHERE: The Academy Theatre Banquet & Conference Center, 58 E. Washington St., at the former Tusing Warehouse.

COST: $20

MORE: Call 301-797-8182 or go to www.potomacplaymakers.com

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