New Theater Group Ready to Debut Performing the Classics
There is an assortment of local theater companies across Westchester County, but a new organization hopes to find its niche with productions that are outside the scope of most existing groups. Katonah Classic Stage, which is debuting this week after a delay of about a year-and-a-half due to the pandemic with a presentation of David Mamet’s “Oleanna,” is a professional nonprofit theater company that is dedicated to performing the classics, said Sharron Kearney, its executive director.
The theater group’s tagline is “Shakespeare to Shaw and beyond,” which has generated highly encouraging feedback even before “Oleanna” opens for the first of eight performances this Thursday evening before continuing through Nov. 14, Kearney said.
Katonah Classic Stage’s home will be the Bedford Historical Hall on Old Post Road.
“I can’t tell you how many people have come up (to us), ‘Oh my God, I’ve been looking for something like this. There is nothing like this up here,’” Kearney said. “So we definitely struck a chord and it was one that I wasn’t certain was there to be struck. I was relieved to see such a warm reception of just that idea of doing classic plays, of doing a Chekhov (play) and all of that.”
Kearney’s husband, longtime stage and television Trent Dawson, who is best known for his role as Henry Coleman on “As the World Turns,” is Katonah Classic Stage’s founding artistic director. Part of a network of actors with stage and television experience, the hope is to attract notable talent to their performances, she said.
For the two-character “Oleanna,” the male lead will be played by Broadway veteran Jordan Lage, who is also a seasoned performer of Mamet plays. He will be joined by Lea Dimarchi, who was selected for the female lead of Carol. Dimarchi recently filmed a movie with Naomi Watts and Bobby Canavale and has an extensive classical theater background.
“Trent is hoping to delve into his connections to Broadway and bring some Broadway veterans up here, and we have a pretty heavy hitter for our first production, so we’re excited about that,” Kearney said.
She said it had been her husband’s dream to launch a theater company performing the classics. After they moved to Katonah in 2016, he began taking steps to make that dream a reality.
“He really started thinking, we have two young children, what is my legacy going to be,” Kearney recalled.
The theater group was launched in late 2019, and the debut production was set to be Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” in March 2020. By then, virtually everything was shutting down because of COVID-19 and Katonah Classic Stage was put on hold indefinitely.
Instead of having a larger cast that would have been required for “Twelfth Night” or some other productions, they decided to start off with a two-character play. In addition to avoiding the expense of paying a large cast, a two-hander limits cast and crew to exposure to COVID, Kearney said.
She said“Oleanna” is very timely as it speaks to the #MeToo movement and cancel culture, definitely not a light topic, she said.
“This is the type of show where you’re going to want to have a drink and go out and talk about it afterwards,” Kearney said. “This show, in particular, kind of pits one character against another and you get to decide who you think is right or if both people have value.”
In the future, Katonah Classic Stage will also present some more contemporary productions, but the classics will be its focus, she said.
A very long-term goal for the company is to build its own venue, although plenty of fundraising would be needed.
“Oleanna” will be performed Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 4-7 and Nov. 11-14. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday evenings and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $40 for adults and $30 for students and seniors.
For tickets and more information about Katonah Classic Stage, visit www.katonahclassicstage.com.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/