A French Romance, All Shook Up, Arsenic and Old Lace, Camille Saint-Saëns, Claude Debussy, Color Fest, Emmitsburg, God's Favorite, Godspell, Henri Vieuxtemps, Mount Saint Mary's University, Muses, St. John's Lutheran Church, The Rose Tattoo, The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild, Thespiae, Thurmont Thespians
Despite our better wishes, the summer season has come and gone. I have often heard people say that summer is the fastest season, and it has certainly felt that way this
year. The time for outdoor grilling and roofless car rides down Route 15 is quickly coming to an end, but the fall season presents us with new options for entertainment.
Football is back on the air, apples are right for the picking, and corn mazes are opening up all around us. One option I have not often heard locally, though, is the increasing number of art events in our community. For instance, the Thurmont Thespians are currently preparing for their upcoming fall production, God’s Favorite. Let me offer some more background on this group, in the event that any of you are unfamiliar with, or would like to know more about them.
The Thurmont Thespians are a wonderful, charmingly quaint local community theatre group whose mission is to bring theatre to the town of Thurmont, as well as teach theatre to young people during the summertime. This month I spoke with Beth Watson, co-founder of the Thespians, to better acquaint myself with this local organization.
Beth explained that the name, Thespians, is a reference to the citizens of the Ancient Greek polis of Thespiae. Briefly put, Thespiae was a site of great artistic activity in the ancient world. If any of you are familiar with the Muses (the nine Greek goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science, and the arts), their sanctuary could be found in Thespiae.
The intention of creating a theatre group to inspire local townsmen was especially evident when Beth spoke to me. She told me that her personal inspiration for founding the Thespians was the teaching of theatre to children: “I wanted to teach basic theatre skills to every kid who wants to learn, without cost. And so we founded the Thurmont Thespians to achieve this goal.”
Beth and her husband Spencer, the other co-founder, have a lengthy background in theatrical art. Spencer performed while at Allegheny College, and Beth took part in theatrical production while attending Dickinson College. Beth is a native of Thurmont who had been away since high school, but moved back to Thurmont with her husband in the early 1990s, continually showcasing their love of locally-found theatre by remaining active with the Fredericktowne Players and the Blue Ridge Theatre Guild.
The Thespians are a community theatre organized as an outreach of St. John’s Lutheran Church. St. John’s has always been a key supporter of the Thespians. Earlier in its history, the Thespians performed their plays at the Church itself, but have since branched out and conducted their shows at The American Legion, also located in Thurmont. As it stands today, St. John’s kindly offers the Thespians the rehearsal space necessary for their main productions, which are held in The American Legion building.
An impressive diversity of plays have been taken on by the Thespians over the span of 17 years. Since 1998, the local group has performed some very well known plays, some of which include Godspell, Arsenic and Old Lace, and The Rose Tattoo. Other lesser known plays have also been exhibited with great success, such as Paul Zindel’s The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild. The theatre also performs original works, like Kurt Johnson’s Teenages in 2006 and Spence Watson’s Bessie Darling in 2012. Typically, the fall production encompasses any particular type of play, while the spring production is oftentimes a musical. During the summertime, the performers of the play switch each year between teens and the younger crowd, that being, between the ages of 4 and 14.
Even with the overwhelming support of the community, which comprises local businesses, actors, producers, and lay citizens, the Thespians have needed to cope with some major dilemmas in their history. Beth informed me that Spencer passed away very suddenly in December of 2013, which left a major gap in leadership, “It takes five men and three women to handle the things that he did automatically.”
The response to this loss, however, was an incredible illustration of how members of a close community can overcome even the greatest of adversities.
“At this point in our development, I am overseeing the group but we have all sorts of people stepping up to the plate to help. I am no longer directing and we have found that many youngsters who have come up through the program are willing to step up and help by directing,” stated Beth.
Local residents have also come to aid the Thespians, and Beth could not be more thankful, “Everyone comes and helps, all ages and all levels of expertise. It is a community endeavor and we pull from the surrounding communities as well.”
In addition to Spencer’s unexpected passing in 2013, money has always been a factor for the Thespians. As you might imagine, offering to teach any curious child the skills involved with theatre work for free does incur some financial cost for the group. Nevertheless, local citizens have always helped keep the Thespians afloat; “We have instituted semi-annual book sales, as well as Granny’s Attic at Color Fest.” In our back-and-forth, Beth especially emphasized how grateful she, as well as everyone involved with the Thespians, is for every person who has aided them financially throughout their history through these fundraisers.
Today, the number of individuals currently involved in the management of the group hovers between 35 and 40, and everyone is working impassionedly on their upcoming show, God’s Favorite.
For this article, I also spoke with the director of God’s Favorite, Matthew Bannister, and he echoed everything that Beth had told me. He said that, “The Thurmont Thespians really embrace the community part of community theatre. As well as the nine actors involved in the production, there will be a much larger group away from the limelight.”
The community aspect of this play is particularly noticeable in the number of people who will help sell tickets, the ushers, and those who are helping audience members by serving complimentary refreshments.
Based on the conversations that I have had with Beth and Matthew, I am confident that the Thurmont Thespians will put on an impressive and memorable performance of God’s Favorite. Matthew has a unique vision for the play that he, as well as everyone involved, believes will connect with attendees “through laughter, heartfelt emotion, and faith, and when performed well, should be quite thought provoking too.”
God’s Favorite is a modern, comedic reimagining of the story of the biblical Job’s tribulations. Beth regaled some basic plot details by sharing that the play “is centered on Joe Benjamin, a man who lives in a Long Island mansion with his wife and family when he is visited by an unlikely messenger from God who uses all kinds of temptations and trials to get him to denounce God.” This play was the creation of the famously funny playwright Neil Simon, the mind behind The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park.
If you are interested in attending God’s Favorite, the show will be performed during the first two weekends in November at The American Legion building located at 8 Park Place in Thurmont, MD. At the Friday and Saturday night showings on the 6th, 7th, 13th, and 14th, curtains rise at 7:30 PM. At the Sunday showings on the 8th and 14th, the curtains rise at 2 PM. A dinner theatre is also available on Saturday, November 14th at 6 PM. To schedule a reservation, as well as to ask any questions you may have about show times, feel free to contact the Thespians at (301) 271-7613.
Other local art events have been occurring at Mount St. Mary’s University that are worth your attention. There is an upcoming classical music concert at the Mount, open to all. The subject of this classical concert is music from France during the heart of the Romantic Period. The Romantic Period, for those of us who may not be adept at identifying composers by musical era, includes artists from the likes of Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner.
The Romantic era composers whose work will be performed at the Mount are Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Henri Vieuxtemps. The performers, James Tung and John Wickelgren, are very fond of the pieces they will play at this upcoming event, and are very eager to share some beautifully crafted music to anyone who wishes to participate in it. This concert will be held on October 3rd at 7:30 PM, in the Lynne & Joseph Horning Theater found in the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center at Mount St. Mary’s University, and admission is free.
Thank you for reading through the arts section this month! I would like to use the rest of my page space to tell you all that I have created a website specifically for this section of the paper, which I called The Emmitsburg Art Scene. On this website, you can find all of my previously written articles, which include extra photos and videos not found in the paper version. You will find weekly posts where I discuss one work of art that I believe is very interesting or particularly relevant during that week, as well as reports from local art events. If you happened to miss the classical music concert, for example, pictures, videos and commentary will already be uploaded to The Emmitsburg Art Scene webpage. There is a comment system up as well, where you can feel free to share your thoughts with myself or anyone else. If you are interested, feel free to visit at emmitsburgartscene.wordpress.com!
Postscript: I have included some reference compositions by each of the composers whose works will be played on the 3rd below. I can’t guarantee that these compositions will be played at the venue, but I find them particularly moving and worth a listen.