This season marks the 40th anniversary of Irvington Town Hall Theater (ITHT) Inc., created in 1978 to produce children’s theater events in the historic 1902 building at 85 Main Street. As the Village has grown, so, too, has community interest in the arts. ITHT has expanded programming to engage patrons of all ages in a wide variety of genres.
The inaugural Stage Door Playwright Festival debuts November 11-12. A weekend of original one-act plays, the festival is broken into four sessions (two on Saturday and two on Sunday), each featuring different playwrights. A springboard for writers to get their works off the ground, the festival, which is free to the public, allows audiences to participate in the creative process by talking with playwrights and industry professionals during Q&A’s after each session.
“I am thrilled by what our three-year-old Stage Door Reading Series has become,” said theater manager, Greg Allen. “Presenting several readings each year, we discovered there are so many stories to tell and so many innovative ways to tell them. We introduced some truly exceptional playwrights and found that our audiences wanted more. The festival is a great opportunity for writers and patrons to explore new works in an intimate setting.”
Festival Chair Judy Klein Frimer reviewed over 80 submissions with volunteer committee members Marjorie Rosenfield, Claudia Shayne Ferguson, Mitchell Bard, Thomas Grey, Chris Canning, and Ellen Flaks. While some of the plays may not be suitable for children, the Sunday 12:30 session will be family-friendly.
ITHT’s growth has produced a new non-profit entity, “Friends of the Theater,” to raise awareness and funds. “We’ve done some upgrading of facilities, and hope to do more,” said Allen. “Air-conditioning is a longtime goal so we can open the theater in the summer which would add both revenue and programming.”
ITHT has also started a sponsorship program for the film and playwright festivals with a first-ever “Arts Champion,” Pamela Eskind, Real Estate Associate Broker, William Raveis Legends Realty Group. Supporting sponsors include Allan Block Insurance, Atria Senior Living, Bridge Street Properties, Houlihan Lawrence, Red Hat on the River, RiverArts, Urgent Care of Westchester, and Westchester Collaborative Theater.
The Playwright Festival features Samuel Harps (Goat Feed), Brian Wallace (Reunion), Reneè Flemings (Brotherhood), Danielle Frimer (Between Friends), Jody Christopherson (AMP), Linda Tidwell Delaney (Bookworms), Jason Odell Williams (Dog Park), and Nancy Kelly (Backyard Desert). For playwright biographies and ITHT event information, visit: www.irvingtontheater.com.
“Creating something new takes on a life of its own,” explained Allen. “Eight years ago, the Best of Film Committee began screening independent films; from there, the All Shorts Irvington Film Festival (As iFF) was born. We just presented our sixth festival of international shorts to a sold-out audience, with some being seen for the first time in the United States on the Irvington screen! Besides local patrons, viewers come from all over to see these incredible films. You can find avant-garde and diverse programming right here in Irvington, which is exciting on many levels. It’s been proven that any area with an artistic presence is good for the economic growth of that area. It’s one of the things that draws people to shop or dine or settle with their families and form roots.”
ITHT is also expanding relationships with other organizations. Take A Number Productions will premiere a live comedy show on November 10 (for audiences 18 and over). “There’s a real buzz generating when a group like Take A Number Productions contacts us saying they want to bring the East Village of Manhattan to the Rivertowns. We understand not every show is for every audience, and that’s okay. Some people like old-fashioned musicals, some people like alternative music, and some people like Bette-Midler-style bawdy humor.”
The objective is to offer something for everyone. Last month, Tedx Tarrytown presented “Rise” featuring inspiring speakers and topics. On December 6, Broadway’s Kelli O’Hara will perform a benefit concert presented by SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young. “As a parent and a person who has benefited from using my voice to express myself all my life,” said O’Hara in a press release, “I want to do everything I can to support an organization for kids that honors their self-expression and helps them find their voices.”
Finding a voice is an integral part of ITHT’s mission. Common Ground Community Concerts, bringing beloved musicians and stellar musicianship to ITHT’s stage with genres spanning (and often blending) folk, blues, jazz, and rock, presents Darlingside on December 9. The Mayor Presents returns on December 2 with a concert party on the night of Irvington’s ‘Holiday Happening.’
“Our 40 years started with children’s theater — which has thrived with Clocktower Players’ amazing shows and troupes for kids from four years old through high school,” said Allen. “Clocktower also presents a professional musical every fall; this year, it’s Company on November 4. Broadway Training Center, with their wonderful performance ensembles, kicks off the season with Fiddler on the Roof, November 17-19. High-caliber kids’ performances are ITHT’s foundation. From there, we’ve built artistic programming for all ages and interests that continues to grow every day.”