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Guild Restores Sense Of Community To Theater In Leonia

The cast of "The Importance of Being Earnest"
The cast of "The Importance of Being Earnest" Photo Credit: Contributed photo

LEONIA, NJ -- The Players Guild of Leonia will open its 96th season with "Our Town," the first of four stage productions, on Oct. 2.

The longest continuing community theater in the state and the eighth oldest in the country, the guild includes non-equity actors, directors and a production crew in an all-volunteer effort working in the last of the borough's Civil War 1859 Drill Hall buildings.

"There is a very intimate feel. There are only 100 seats so people can see the actors up close, the details of their costumes and all of their expressions," said Vincent Parrillo. The William Paterson University professor, past Fulbright scholar and filmmaker returns this year as president of the guild and will direct "The Pajama Game" in December.

"We have a wide range of experience professionals acting as consultants with each other, so no one is above anyone else," Parrillo said.

Open auditions and calls include individuals from New York and the surrounding area who will also produce "I Never Sang for My Father," and "The Melody Lingers On," in 2016. On opening nights, attendees will join actors onstage for refreshments.

Fundraising was a challenge, but the guild was awarded a $4,000 grant from the Leonia Community Chest and an $8,000 grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust to help cover the cost of painting the exterior of the building and making other interior restorations.

"Our handicap-accessible deck is the next thing to tackle in terms of maintenance and restoration. There are always expenses," Parrillo said.

His biggest challenge now is recruiting individuals. Parrillo's wife, Beth, manages choreography, but he needs additional help for set construction. Many of them help create pieces for the playwrights in a showcase that closes out the season in June.

"We're a family," Parrillo said. "The person who might be working lights this time might work the sound next time."

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