Taking center stage: Longtime director forms youth theater troupe

Originally Published: Monday, January 25, 2010, here at NewsHerald.com

By Andrea Blum

From the remnants of one youth theater group, another has emerged.

PS. — Center Stage Players is the newest youth theater company on the Downriver scene. Headed by former Wyandotte Community Theatre director Penny Siler, the troupe sprang from the now-defunct Stage Right Players, WCT’s youth arm.

Siler boasts a long background in Downriver theater, having staged shows with both groups. She co-founded SRP with then-president Mary Zaleski and directed a string of successful shows, including “Oklahoma,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “Les Miserables — School Edition.” Her credits with WCT include “Damn Yankees,” Guys and Dolls” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

PS-Center Stage Players rehearses for its first production

The newest youth theater group formed after internal strife led to the SRP’s demise late last year. “To us, it’s the same group,” she said. “It’s the same stage and same people. It’s just that we’re independent now. The changes have just been more on the reorganizational side.”

She said the new moniker was chosen to represent the “p.s. or postscript” at the end of a letter. “The idea was that we were supposedly done, so much like a letter that has the p.s. after it, that was us continuing on after the end,” she said.

“The PS stands for anything they can think of that’s positive like ‘pretty special.”

Starting the new troupe sooner than expected has been financially challenging, according to Siler, as they have to borrow lighting and sound equipment. “Though we have been forced to restart with a new name, a complete lack of equipment and zero dollars, we are hopeful and confident about our future,” she said.

“The freedom to create and entertain in a happy, positive atmosphere is well worth any financial woe. We definitely have a goal to be financially solvent again and appreciate all support by patrons, businesses and contributors.”

The first offering of the new company will be a musical version of the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” to be staged Feb. 11 to 13 at the Josephine Brighton Work Skills Center’s auditorium in Wyandotte, which will serve as the group’s home stage.

The second main stage production will be “A Little Princess,” on April 23-24 and 29-30. Auditions will be held from 3 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church, 72 Oak St., Wyandotte. Auditions will continue from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Wyandotte City Hall, 3131 Biddle Ave. Come prepared to sing a song of your choice and read from the script. The cast will consist of females ages 6 to adult and males ages 8 to adult.

The Center Stage Players will be a group “by and/or for young people,” according to Siler, allowing for flexibility to stage shows with casts comprising children, adults or a combination of the two. “We will do things with all youth or with a mix,” she said. “It could very well be a cast of all adults putting on a show for kids at some point.”

In addition, she will continue to offer acting workshops and opportunities for classes and performances by the improvisational comedy troupe “Improvishness,” coached by professional improv artist and instructor Michael Lomas of Trenton.

She stresses that the new venture is far from a “one-woman show,” as the group relies on a solid base of friends, parents and associates from previous shows.

The group won’t have a typical board of directors structure, but rather place all the decisions and responsibility on Siler. She said she believes that will allow for a more harmonious group environment. “Some people don’t like holding office and getting involved in all the politics,” she said. “We’re going to focus on what’s most important, and that’s what’s happening with the actors and on stage.”

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