Starring as Oscar is Van Pearlberg, deputy chief assistant district attorney for Cobb County and a Marietta city councilman. Former Assistant District Attorney Bert Reeves appears as Felix Unger, the splinter in the banister of life for every lovable slob who ever lived.
Appearing as Oscar’s affable collection of misfit card players are County Commissioner Bob Ott, retired businessman Steve Imler, local character actor Murray Sarkin and the Strand’s Events and Bar Manager, Andrew Cole. The slightly dim but ever so huggable neighbors the Pigeon Sisters are delightfully portrayed by local businesswomen Cassandra Buckalew and Kim Gresh.
The audience obviously enjoyed the performance, whether for the play itself, one of Neil Simon’s most enduring classics for the past 50 years, or for the pleasure of watching an unlikely cast doing a delightful job of something they all obviously loved.
If you have not seen the show, be sure to take advantage of one of the three remaining performances. You will not only be giving the Strand a much-needed helping hand, but you will have a delightful time.
However, as an actor, director and writer, in community theater, I could not help but recall the plight of our beloved Theater in the Square, which, as reported in the MDJ on Dec. 31, founder Palmer Wells, is engaged in a fight to save.
In addition to seeking audience donations, via a “pass the hat” approach, soliciting corporate and personal pledges, and a “Save Your Seat” campaign, the theater has cut the staff by a third, instituted across-the-board 10 percent pay cuts for the remaining staff, and a 20 percent pay cut for Wells and Managing Director Raye Varney. In addition, medical benefits have been cut in half.
They are doing what most businesses are doing, tightening their belts and digging in. Only time will tell if they if they waited too long to effect these cost cutting measures.
Though a large infusion of cash, such as a grant or an outright donation of several hundred thousand dollars, would answer the immediate need, the real secret to ongoing success for the theater is two-fold. First is the reduction of ongoing expenses. The action they have taken with regard to personnel costs is a major step in accomplishing that.
A large ongoing expense is, of course, the rent. Currently, Philip Goldstein holds a lease calling for $10,778 a month, with 24 years left. Knowing that the rent on an empty building is zero, as an astute businessman, Goldstein might be prevailed upon to provide some relief in that area. To Goldstein’s credit, he is currently allowing them to run four months in arrears.
The other vital thing needed is an increase in income on an ongoing basis. The secret here is sustained and subscribed ticket sales. A season ticket drive is, I am sure, in the offing.
In addition, various fund raisers are also necessary on a recurring basis. Talent shows, silent auctions, showcasing local playwrights’ works and amateur nights are all things that I have seen work in the past.
Losing this treasure would be a major step backward for the performing arts in Cobb County. I witnessed, first hand, what the people of Cobb County can accomplish when united in the pursuit of a common purpose, as I watched the saga of the salvation of the Strand Theater unfold.
Saving Theater in the Square is not nearly so massive an undertaking, but one I consider every bit as important. It is going to require the combined talents of many people, in addition to those already on board. I am sure Palmer Wells and Raye Varney would welcome any help they can get. If you are inclined to be a part of saving this downtown landmark, I urge you to step up to the plate.
Remember though, in the final analysis, sustained patronage through season ticket subscription, is the most enduring support we can offer.
Pete Borden is an amateur playwright and director in east Cobb,/i>