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Center Stage looks to the Future

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Center Stage Community Playhouse will continue a tradition that stretches back more than 40 years with two plays that artistic director Donna Bellone thinks will spark interest in the neighborhood.

The Westchester Square theater nearly closed last year for lack of funds, but an appeal to supporters and grants from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs propelled Center Stage into its 41st season. The non-profit theater is staffed by volunteers and some theater pros.

David Auburn’s Proof, a contemporary play and Pulitzer Prize winner, follows a young woman as she deals with the loss of her brilliant but erratic father and will be performed on Friday, February 12 and Saturday, February 13 at 8 p.m., plus Sunday, February 14 at 2 p.m. The Arthur Miller classic All My Sons, set in the United States after World War II, will be performed in April.

“We strive to give the audience a professional-caliber show,” Bellone said. “Theatre in Manhattan is really wonderful, but also very expensive. Our ticket price is less than one-fifth of what you could expect to pay for a Broadway show.”

Bellone has been with the theater since 1970. Center Stage, which rents St. Peter’s Church at 2474 Westchester Avenue, is known for breaking the mold when it comes to offering high-quality productions that many people don’t associate with community theatre, she said.

Despite its shoestring budget, Center Stage offers first-rate live theatre: professional lighting, sets and sound. Most community theaters don’t boast paid design crews. All Center Stage actors are volunteers. Some directors are and some aren’t.

Holland Renton, cast in Proof and a member of the Center Stage board of directors, thinks the community will enjoy the theater’s February and April plays, she said.

“We are saying we have a theater which rivals the best of off-off-Broadway,” Renton remarked. “You don’t have to travel into the city.”

Bellone predicted that senior citizens who remember the days during and after World War II will like All My Sons, which follows a family struggling to cope with the loss of a son to the war. The Arthur Miller classic will be performed on April 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23 and 24. Center Stage will hold a preview performance on Thursday, April 8. Tickets are $18 general admission and $15 for seniors and students.

For more information on Center Stage, call (718) 823-6434 or www.centerstageplayhouse.org.

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at 718 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group