Allison Graham Hays has come in from the cold to take over the reins at the venerable Theatre Harrisburg, which is on the verge of launching its 92nd season.
Before taking over as executive director this summer, Hays had been spending her summer months on the Alaskan peninsula, managing the “Days of ’98 Show” in the one-time Gold Rush town of Skagway.
But Hays is not unfamiliar to the local theatrical community, having performed as an actor in a number of productions on local stages over the years, including several at Theatre Harrisburg.
“I’ve always been a friend to this organization since I moved here in 2010,” Hays said. “Now I’m looking forward to seeing what our audience can teach me about what they want to see.”
Hays came on board at Theatre Harrisburg following the abrupt departure of former director Brett Bernardini, who resigned in April after less than two years on the job. The theater canceled a spring production while it reorganized.
First up in the new season will be “Rumors,” a classic Neil Simon farce that may signal a return to more familiar fare by Theatre Harrisburg.
The theater, which features a professional staff and volunteer actors, is best known for staging large-scale musicals such as “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Sweeney Todd” at downtown Harrisburg’s Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, plus classic comedies and mysteries at the uptown Krevsky Center.
Bernardini, seeking to find a younger audience for the theater’s future, pushed for more cutting edge shows.
Hays plans to chart something of a middle course.
“We have to appeal to a broad cross section of the community,” she said. “This year we have some familiar things and also some new works. We are sort of of coming back to what the community knows us for.”
In addition to “Rumors,” which opens at the Krevsky Center on Sept. 15, Theatre Harrisburg’s 2017-18 season will feature:
— “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” a popular musical comedy from Stephen Sondheim, Nov. 3-19 at Whitaker.
— “Yours Truly Jack Frost,” holiday show featuring young performers, Dec. 14-17 at Krevsky.
— “God of Carnage,” comedy that won 2009 Tony Award for best play, Jan. 19-28 at Krevsky.
— “I Love You Because,” contemporary Off-Broadway musical, March 2-18 at Krevsky.
— “Hairspray,” Tony winner for Best Musical, April 26-May 6 at Whitaker.
— “Grave Doubts,” winner of Theatre Harrisburg’s 2016 New Works Festival, June 8-17 at Krevsky.
Everyone has a backstory, even Peter Pan.
“Peter and the Starcatcher,” a grown-up play based on a charming children’s novel by an unlikely, if formidable, pair of writers, explores the previously uncharted origins of the Boy Who Never Grew Up.
A production of this Tony Award-winning Broadway play will open a week from Friday at The Playhouse at Allenberry, running through Sept. 16. The show marks the second production, after “Shrek the Musical,” to be staged at the reopened theater on the grounds of the Allenberry Resort in Boiling Springs.
Based on characters created by Scottish writer J. M. Barrie in the early 20th century, “Peter and the Starcatcher” speculates that young Peter got his start in life as an abused British orphan who is sold to a pirate before going overboard and washing up on a magical island.
The play is based on “Peter and the Starcatchers,” a 2004 novel by noted humorist Dave Barry and best-selling thriller writer Ridley Pearson. It was adapted for the stage by Rick Elise and has enjoyed runs both Off-Broadway and on, winning five Tonys in 2012.
Allenberry’s production, suitable for all ages, is directed by Dave Olmsted.
Back to work
Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg, also back from hiatus after a major reshuffling, will dust off another Neil Simon comedy to launch its 67th season this weekend.
“Last of the Red Hot Lovers” is a laugh-filled, if somewhat dated, tale about a married, middle-aged man named Barney who is desperate to join America’s sexual revolution before it’s too late.
But Barney is an inept seducer who fails to work his charms on a series of three women, including a chain-smoking sexpot, a nutty actress and his wife’s best friend. Clever dialogue by Simon keeps the play human despite farcical elements.
The show opens Sept. 8 and runs through Sept. 24 at the intimate community theater.