Most of us know the Rosendale Theatre as that old-fashioned downtown moviehouse, rescued and restored by community activists, where we can go see a flick a few weeks after its first-run multiplex release for a lower ticket price, in cozy surroundings that recall the heyday of “going to the picture show.” But the space was always meant to house live performances as well, and scheduling those on a more regular basis has long been a priority of managing director Ann Citron, whose professional background is in theater. In 2015, the Rosendale Theatre’s vintage wooden stage was rebuilt to accommodate that dream, and subsequent renovations have created more backstage prep space and enhanced lighting and sound capabilities.
The happy result has been a gradual ramping-up of live offerings, from summertime theater workshops for kids, culminating in a performance, to staged reenactments of live broadcast dramas from the Golden Age of Radio, complete with vintage advertising jingles. And now at long last, with a boost from an Arts Mid-Hudson grant conferred by the Ulster County Legislature, Citron and her mostly volunteer crew have managed to achieve an elusive goal: launching a competitive Short Play Festival, to be held (with luck and additional funding) on an annual basis. The first iteration will hit the boards for three performances on July 26 and 27.
When the call for original short plays went out, the Theatre received 49 submissions and selected ten. These are fully staged productions, not mere readings. Collectively dubbed “The Love/Death Plays,” the works to be performed this year include Night Manager by D. Tucker Smith, The Romance of the Algorithm and the Meme by Adam LeFevre, Fitzroy by Mark St. Germain, Dear Crossing by Lisa Kimball, After by Nicole Quinn, A Wake by Brian Petti, On the Floor by Anthony Leiner, Going Out Dancing by Katherine Burger, Here and There by David Little and Love Me and Death by Bruce Pileggi.
Susan Einhorn – who serves as artistic director for the Festival – Christine Crawfis and Citron herself will direct. The casts include Jeffery Battersby, Defne Dilsiz, Noa Graham, Jonathan Hyland, Jane Ives, David Little, Brian Mathews, Janet E. Nurre, Molly Parker Myers, Bruce Pileggi and Lori Wilner.
Love the theater? Committed to grassroots community revitalization? Jazzed by the concept of art as something that happens from the ground up, rather than the top down? Want to see more local opportunities for aspiring playwrights to get their work seen and heard? Come on down to Rosendale and pack the house, so they can keep on doing more of these year after year. It’s your opportunity to experience the magic of a new regional cultural institution when it’s just starting to blossom. “I was there for the first one” bragging rights come free with the price of admission, which is only $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Performances of all ten of “The Love/Death Plays” begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 26 and at 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. To purchase advance tickets, visit https://shortplayfest.bpt.me. For more information, call (845) 658-8989 or visit www.rosendaletheatre.org. The handicapped-accessible Rosendale Theatre is located at 408 Main Street (Route 213) in Rosendale, and has ample parking in the rear.