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Children take center stage at Fun Fest

May 22, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER
  • Riley Lautenslager, 3, of Chambersburg, Pa., puts a personal touch on her theater craft Saturday at the Totem Pole Playhouse's annual Fun Fest in Fayetteville, Pa.
Kate S. Alexander, Staff Writer

FAYETTEVILLE, PA. -- It was one of the largest Fun Fests in recent Totem Pole Playhouse history Saturday as families from across the area met under the trees to mark the beginning of the theater's 2010 season.

"It has been a fantastic day," said Sue McMurtray, managing director of the playhouse. "The fun, the smiles. It's great."

Totem Pole Playhouse has hosted the festival for at least 11 years, McMurtray said.

A mix of children's activities, food, theater, tours, a yard sale and a bake sale have come to characterize the event.

Before Totem Pole's lineup gets into full swing, the annual Fun Fest is a way to say thank you to patrons, introduce children to the magic of theater and expose the playhouse to people who might not have known it was nestled in the woods just east of Chambersburg, Pa., artistic director Ray Ficca said.

"We are not looking to make money off of this," he said. "This is just an opportunity to enjoy the theater and the arts on a beautiful day."

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Children are a major focus of the event, he said.

From face painting, balloons and crafts to a magic show, impromptu children's theater and ice cream, there was plenty to keep children engaged.

"It's the most magical thing to see a child's eyes when they are on stage," he said. "I believe there is a little actor and performer in each of us."

It was the magic show that won the heart of 3-year-old Riley Lautenslager of Chambersburg.

Riley's mother, Crystal Lautenslager, brought her and her brother, Robby, 5, to the festival for the first time.

"This is a good reason to come back here and bring along the kids," Crystal Lautenslager said.

Theater has been around longer than any other from of entertainment, Ficca said, and Totem Pole marks its 60th anniversary in the business this year.

Even as the economy struggles, the season is shaping up to be very successful, McMurtray said.

As of Saturday, 4,700 tickets had been sold for the first show, "Sisters of Swing," set to open May 29, she said.

"These are tough economic times, but we have performers from Broadway, Hollywood, D.C. and Baltimore and can bring Broadway to south central Pennsylvania for an affordable price," Ficca said.

Those who came to the festival Saturday were given a taste of the upcoming season as the actors welcomed guests to watch a rehearsal for the opening show, he said.

Not much changed since the last Fun Fest, McMurtray said, as she recounted the 400 hamburgers and 300 hot dogs sold Saturday.

What has changed this year is that Totem Pole Playhouse has new seats and carpeting and offers a reduced ticket rate of $15 for patrons ages 5 to 21, Ficca said.

Totem Pole Playhouse is nestled in Caledonia State Park just off U.S. 30.

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