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City Island Theater Group celebrates tenth anniversary

City Island Theater Group, the talented troupe responsible for To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Kuddy’s Wild West Kabaret, The Women, Doubt, Steel Magnolias and Rumors, is ten years young.

City Island couple Joe and Miriam Nixon established the group in 1999. City Island residents are great fans of theater but had been without a theater group for some years, Nick Sala said. Raised in Castle Hill and a resident of Pelham Bay, Sala joined City Island Theater Group in 2000.

The Broadway professional, employed by Inside Broadway, a non-profit children’s theater in Manhattan, graduated from City Island Theater Group stage manager to president. Sala has history on City Island; he’s worked in its restaurants and bars.

“City Island is an artistic community,” Sala said. “These are nautical people. When you live right by the sea, you appreciate beauty.”

Sala joined the City Island Theater Group in order to let loose. He loves doing theater during the day in Manhattan but a job is a job, Sala said. The group is made up of volunteers: teachers and bakers, architects and retirees who want to have fun and offer art to the community.

Although Senator Jeff Klein and Councilman Jimmy Vacca help to fund the City Island Theater Group, the group subsists primarily on ticket sales. Sala and friends put together three main stage productions each year; each production, performed six or nine times, gets 350 to 400 audience members.

The group chooses productions that are thoughtful but that also possess universal appeal. Audience members hail from throughout the Bronx, Westchester County, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

“We don’t do anything too avante garde,” Sala said. “We try to educate and entertain.”

The group holds auditions prior to each production and Sala picks the best, he said. Although City Island Theater Group is a volunteer group, Sala is passionate about “production value.” There are a million ways to spend a Friday or Saturday night in New York City; audience members deserve quality, Sala explained. The group often holds rehearsals three nights a week.

There have been a handful of memorable productions in City Island Theater Group’s ten years, perhaps none more so than Doubt in 2007. Author John Patrick Shanley lent the group exclusive rights to present the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, adapted for film in 2008, after its run on Broadway ended.

“It was fantastic,” Sala said.

Another City Island Theater Group highlight was its production of the musical Cabaret in 2005 and of The Women in 2006. The latter involved a 21-member all-female cast.

The group will present Wait Until Dark, a thriller, in February. Headquartered at Grace Episcopal Church on City Island Avenue, the group will boast 100 new cushioned seats in 2010.

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