Fun Home

Caroline Chronister, left, Gretchen Mayumi Sutton and Vanessa Marie Hofer portray Lock Haven native Alison Bechdel at three different stages in her life in the autobiographical musical “Fun Home,” on stage through Oct. 29 at Open Stage of Harrisburg.

courtesy of Open Stage of Harrisburg

Graphic artist Alison Bechdel couldn’t get into art school, but she made a name for herself with a series of comic illustrations focused on lesbian culture.

The Lock Haven native’s real breakthrough came with “Fun Home,” a graphic novel about her own voyage of discovery as she grew up in a Roman Catholic family and eventually came out as a lesbian at age 19.

The novel was later made into a Tony Award-winning musical that ran both off-Broadway and then on Broadway.

A production of “Fun Home” is currently running at Open Stage of Harrisburg, with three actors — Vanessa Marie Hofer, Caroline Chronister and Gretchen Mayumi Sutton — portraying Bechdel at different stages of her life as she and her family attempt to come to terms with her homosexuality.

The show, which features music by Jeanine Tesori with book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, runs through Oct. 29 at Open Stage, a professional theater in downtown Harrisburg now in its 34th year. The director is Stuart Landon, in his first season as producing artistic director following the retirement of theater founders Donald and Anne Alsedek.

The New York Times called “Fun Home” a “groundbreaking, exquisite and unforgettable” show. In 2015 it received five Tonys, including Best Musical. Bechdel, who now lives in Vermont, said in an interview that the show is not meant to be a screed on gay politics.

“The secret subversive goal of my work is to show that women, not just lesbians, are regular human beings,” she said.

Record numbers

Totem Pole Playhouse, the tenacious summer stock theater that has been operating in Caledonia State Park since 1951, reported record-breaking ticket sales during the past season.

According to theater officials, the season’s most popular show, a musical titled “Million Dollar Quartet,” brought in $332,650—a new sales record for a single production at the professional theater that once featured actress Jean Stapleton of “All in the Family” fame on stage each summer.

In addition, an eight-show run of “Love Letters” featuring former “Family Ties” stars Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross sold out each performance. Officials also reported success in fundraising efforts that enabled the theater to build its endowment to $150,000.

Not a huge amount, admittedly, but a big improvement from 2013, when the endowment was down from $750,000 in 2008 to less that $50,000.

“The truth is, Totem Pole had been losing more than a $100,000 annually over many years and was living off of its endowment,” Joseph said.

Producing Artistic Director Rowan Joseph said he now believes Totem Pole’s endowments for Franklin and Adams counties can reach $300,000, where they would be capped. Ticket sales, grants and donations will fuel that growth, he said.

“It isn’t any one thing or any one person who is responsible for saving Totem Pole Playhouse,” Joseph said, “it’s many things and many people, especially the generations of families who continue to fill our seats once again each summer.”

And also in the winter: Totem Pole’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” will be on stage Dec. 8-17 at Gettysburg’s Majestic Theatre.

Monster classic

It’s almost time to get chilled at Chambersburg’s Capitol Theatre, which will bring a legendary film monster to the stage for the Halloween season.

“Frankenstein,” a drama by Tim Kelly based on Mary Shelley’s classic novel about a brilliant scientist named Victor Frankenstein who creates a living creature from the parts of dead men.

In Chambersburg Community Theatre’s production, directed by Matthew Henning, the creature has tracked Frankenstein to his Swiss chateau in order to make a demand. When the scientist reluctantly agrees, murder and terror soon follow.

The show features David Hewitt as Victor Frankenstein and Brent Blair as the creature. The cast also includes Jeff Leinbach, AimeeBeth Davis and Bex Etter.

The show opens Oct. 20 and continues on weekends through Oct. 29. It is rated PG-13.

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