Matt Schickling, the Wire
People attending upcoming performances by the Village Players of Hatboro will have a better view from a more comfortable seat with a little more legroom than they’re used to.
“We ripped out the entire audience section,” said Fran Carroll, a longtime member of the community theater group. “It was just down to the concrete.”
But it didn’t stay that way for long.
The 150-year-old farmhouse that since 1958 has been host to the Players’ practices and performances is undergoing some renovations. Over the last couple of weeks, the former dairy barn on Jefferson Avenue in Hatboro has seen a flurry of construction activity aimed to make the space more amenable to live performance, both for the Players and their audiences.
“The old chairs were just falling apart,” Carroll said. “We got new chairs and thought the floor looked old, so we bit the bullet and took care of everything at once.”
The floor of the revamped audience section was replaced with stadium-style seating complete with risers and new carpeting. It will accommodate 177 seats, which is a few less than the previous arrangement, but that drop-off comes with its advantages. Instead of facing the stage head-on, the seats are angled at a slight arc to create better sightlines of the stage. They are also working to make the space ADA-accessible.
Of course, a project like this is going to cost some money, more than a small community theater can save from performances alone. That’s why the Players launched the buy-a-chair fundraising campaign. Supporters can “purchase” a seat as a donation to the cause, and a plaque will be placed on one of the seats to recognize it. The plaque can be designated in honor of a loved one, event, organization or the person who made the donation.
So far, over 100 have been sold, and the fundraiser will continue until all seats are spoken for. The cost is $100 per chair, and plaque engravings can accommodate up to 80 characters.
The improvements are set to be complete for the opening night of These Shining Lives, to be performed four times, from Aug. 6 to 9. The play, written by Melanie Marnich, premiered in Baltimore in 2008.
It chronicles the plight of four women working in a watch factory in Ottawa, Illinois in the 1920s and highlights the lack of concern by large companies for workers’ health at the time. The women are eventually diagnosed with radiation poisoning, and the play follows the subsequent lawsuit. It’s based on a similar, true story of women who worked in the United States Radium factory in Orange, New Jersey in the early 1900s.
“It’s more serious than we’re used to. Usually we go lighter,” Carroll said.
It’s also a larger cast than usual, with about 20 performers contributing. The stage and setting will be relatively bare, and the production relies on its actors to connect the dots.
“The summer show is always an anomaly,” Carroll said of the production.
It’s a chance for the group to try new concepts, actors and directors, but the same level of care, tact and judgment is employed to ensure that the summer performances are up to the same standards as the group’s other productions.
“We’re all proud of the theater we work at,” Carroll said. “We just want people to come out and see the shows.”
For information or to purchase a seat or for tickets for upcoming performances, visit www.thevillageplayers.com.