The Next Stage
Independent since its founding in 1996 by Mary Skees and Jay Shuchter, The Next Stage produces three plays a year, focusing on non-musical plays by major and upcoming playwrights -- work you might see Off-Broadway. The Next Stage offers inventive, streamlined productions in a 45-seat wraparound space, as well as readers' theatre, adult acting classes, and participation in the Central PA Theatre & Dance Fest each June.
How did this all get rolling? In 1992, Mary Skees and Jay Shuchter decided to make theater happen, a long-held dream for each. Early plays, one a year, focused on issues and on a local playwright's work. In 1996, we incorporated and became a 501(c)3 non-profit. We gradually worked up to two then three productions a year and began doing the less known works of major playwrights, plays you wouldn't see here otherwise. Gradually, we mixed in more contemporary work. Some of it is re-imaginings of classics. Some is exciting newer work which already has awards and critical acclaim.
What kinds of plays do we choose? We look for quality of the language, a challenge for actors and directors, resonance, small casts, plays not done here before, stories perfect for a black-box space, and stories deeply meaningful to people of any age or background.
What makes a Next Stage production distinctive? Our ideal has always been an almost bare stage, with the goal of ramping up actor and director inventiveness, keeping the focus solely on the acting, and inviting audiences in with their imaginations. The set and props for "Virtual Reality", a signature piece for the company, were an orange crate and a golf pencil. Ah, simplicity. This style choice will not change when someone leaves us a million-dollar endowment
It takes many volunteers keep the company moving: Pat Corey, Caitlin Osborne, Cathy Cohan, Edith Pena, John Hruschka, volunteer ushers. Others seem to appear as needed.
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