Sharing the stage

To be or not to be together. That was the question for two Columbiana County theater groups.
SALEM -- For the first time since Stage Left Players separated from the Salem Community Theatre nine years ago, the two groups will collaborate this weekend, to perform "Hamlet."
"We want to better the life of Columbiana County and pool our resources, and it's working out great," said Amy-Anne Kibler, director of "Hamlet" and vice president of Stage Left's board.
Because of differences of opinion with management at SCT, such as the desire to try less conservative performances, a small group of SCT members broke away in 1992 to begin its own theater organization, explained Kibler.
"Because we were going to be kind of skewed, off from the norm, we wanted to be called Stage Left," Kibler said.
Since then, hearsay has been the hitch in establishing a collaborative production, said Kibler.
"Any time you have two theaters in close approximation, there's always a rumor of competition between them, even if the competition doesn't exist," Kibler said. "These rumors stood in the way of us being together.
"The people who are the theater -- the actors, designers -- always wanted a free flow of communication," she continued.
Changes: In June 2000, SCT's board decided not to renew the managing director's contract, said SCT board member Richard Fawcett. To fill the vacancy, Vanessa Board became the manager of development and promotions earlier this year.
Former SCT board member Mark Frost views the personnel changes positively.
"Now that there have been some changes in management, the board members from both theaters thought it would be a good opportunity to get together and show that there is a spirit of cooperation between the two groups," Frost explained.
The lines of communication between the two organizations opened, and unofficial discussions between the groups led to meetings during the spring to discuss a collaborative project, said Fawcett. Performances begin Friday at Waterworth Memorial Park in Salem.
According to Kibler, both theaters had wanted to do "Hamlet" a few years ago, and now they would have the opportunity.
Happy with choice: Board is in favor of the choice of play.
"It's classic theater," Board explained. "That's why we chose 'Hamlet.' It's one of the best pieces of Shakespeare, and a lot of people are familiar with it."
Kibler said the organizations can learn from each other. Stage Left can offer guidance on outdoor performances, and SCT proposed that the "Hamlet" collaboration be free of charge to the audience, though donations will be accepted.
"They wanted to give it as a gift to the community," Kibler said. "I think that was a great idea of theirs. I'm glad we're doing it that way."
Board believes the collaboration is beneficial in many respects.
"Between the two theaters, we have the staging for it, the costuming for it, the fight coordinators for the fighting scenes, and the band shell is just perfect for it," Board said. "It is theater in the raw -- a great way to see Shakespeare."
Positive feelings: Members on both boards are excited about the project.
"It's really been a great collaboration," Kibler said. "It's been positive, and creatively freeing for me."
Frost will have a small, walk-on role in the production.
"I've only seen a couple minutes of practice, but I think it's going to be good," he said. "I just wish I could take a bigger part in this. I've just always wanted to do Shakespeare."
Board said she is glad the theater is broadening its horizons by working with Stage Left.
"A collaboration is long overdue," Board said. "I think it's something that would promote the two theaters. We're glad and excited about it. It's just a small window that we're opening, and maybe it will open more doors for the future."

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