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E. Palestine theater still isn’t open, but the show (‘Hamlet’) goes on



Published: Thu, June 23, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

It was about this time last year that East Palestine Community Theater was supposed to make an auspicious debut in a renovated movie theater in the downtown area.

But here we are, more than a year later, and it’s still not open.

What happened?

A group of volunteers headed by Don Elzer, president of the EP chamber of commerce, were gutting the building — which most recently was used as a church ministry — and renovating it. But they underestimated the process of getting architectural plans drawn up and approved.

The resultant delays ground the project to a crawl.

But now the green light is back on, as the group recently received state and federal approval for its plans. Work finally has resumed, said Elzer, who is also a city councilman.

The bathrooms and stage have been framed out, and electrical work will begin this month. The final hurdle will be the heating-air-conditioning system, said Elzer. It will cost $30,000, and the chamber is trying to raise money (if you’d like to donate, contact Elzer at the chamber).

The new goal now is to open sometime this fall.

The theater building will retain the name that locals gave it years ago: The Big Show. It’s a moniker that goes back to when it was the biggest and best movie theater in town.

The Big Show, version 2.0, will host concerts, movies and plays.

Last summer, the resident theater company was being headed by Ryan Newell of Salem. But the delays forced Newell to find new locations for his troupe, now known as Spotlight Players.

Newell has staged some ambitious musicals since then, including “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Sweeney Todd” at the Masonic Temple in East Palestine, and “Leading Ladies” at a church in Leetonia.

The troupe is offering an unabridged presentation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” in Salem’s Masonic Temple, which is at 788 E. State St., next to Family Video.

Newell, who not only directs but plays Prince Hamlet (“I’ve never had to learn that many lines in my life,” he said), has combined some scenes to make it a three-act show, with two 10-minute intermissions. The total running time is 3 hours, 45 minutes.

The length, he said, should not be a deterrent. Newell recalled a recent performance of “The Crucible” at YSU that broke the three-hour mark. “It gave me hope,” he said. “People sat there quietly, and nobody left at intermission. And ‘The Crucible’ is talk, talk, talk, whereas ‘Hamlet’ has humor, swordfighting, romance, people dying ...”

Newell said he always wanted to do “Hamlet,” and because his cast members are also Shakespeare fans, they decided to go for it. The cast also includes C. Richard Haldi, Kim Akins, Wayne Morris, Tom Kusiowski and Abby Cull.

Three performances remain: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 and are available at the door or in advance by calling 330-853-2792.

Couldn’t they AT LEAST write SOME SONG lyrics?

Why does indie folk band Bon Iver have a song on its self-titled new album (which was released this week) titled “Lisbon, OH”?

You can’t figure it out by listening to it, because the song has no lyrics. It’s an ethereal and moody instrumental piece. It’s also not the only song on the disc that is named for an obscure American city (“Hinnom, TX”).

The new album is getting glowing reviews. But the Wisconsin-based band does not offer any clues as to “Lisbon, OH” and didn’t respond to an email.

Maybe they just couldn’t think of anything to say.


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