Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Updated Stories of Engagement

Recently, People's Light came up with what we call a "Long Range Plan." This process made us think about who we are, what we do, and what we want to accomplish in the future. Part of the process included collecting stories from staff, patrons, and friends of the Theatre. These are our Stories of Engagement, and each one is unique; each person who wrote a story talked about how they came to be part of the PLTC, or how the community around them is affected by the Theatre. They are interesting reads, and we post them on our website for all to read. We change them out every so often (there are lots of them to get through!) and will put the new ones here for you to read, but if you want to see them on the website you can click here.

Peter DeLaurier (Artistic Associate) and Ceal Phelan
Company Members
We started out as People’s Light's competitors. We co-founded the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington. In our early years there, we met PLTC co-founder Danny Fruchter and others at PLTC and helped connect the theatre with Actors' Equity Association to establish its first union contract. We then worked at PLT under that contract during the summers when we laid ourselves off at DTC. Ceal taught teens in PLTC's summer program. Peter directed in the Festival of New Plays. We made many friends in the company. When we returned to the area after our time running a theatre in Mississippi, we were welcomed back into the ranks at PLTC. Our production of Zig Zag Zelda (at First Stage—a second theatre we founded in Delaware) was performed at PLTC and considered one of the theatre's first "Phased Development" projects. When the resident acting company was reformed under the NEA grant in 1989 we were asked to be members. We've been here ever since.

Both of our kids have worked at PLTC. Jake started in Summerstage and classes and ended up in New Voices Ensemble and in Family Series productions of Breaking Spells and Holes. He's worked backstage and ran follow-spot for a number of productions. Nok was part of the teen crew hired to usher for Free Fest.

We're involved in our community. We can't go to our Friends Meeting without discussing at length the recent production with other Friends who've attended or are about to. Ceal has worked with the Volunteer English Program and with the Exchange Club (mentoring a young single mother). The young women she worked with brought their families to productions. Many families of Jake's soccer teams at Greater Chester Valley Soccer Association (the last of which Peter started and coached for many years) became regular theatre goers. Jake's alma mater, Upattinas, comes frequently to our Project Discovery productions. We're involved in Chester County Democratic politics. Peter is a County Committeeperson for Malvern Borough. The local democrats (and not just a few friendly republicans we've met on the campaign trail) come to shows through our connection. In this vicinity—in grocery stores, pharmacies, Post Office, at the polls, riding bikes on the street, taking a walk through the woods—we run into people (often whom we don't recognize) who KNOW us and want to talk about People’s Light.

At the theatre, we act and teach. We occasionally direct and write. (Peter's Anne of Green Gables was produced in the Family Series.) We work part-time on staff at the theatre. Ceal sometimes assists Melanye Finister in the Audience Development Department and Peter is one of three Artistic Associates. Peter is currently the company/staff representative on the Board of Trustees and has helped with the Strategic Planning committee. He is on the Facilities Committee and the staff Safety Committee. Ceal developed the Adult Ensemble for the Theatre School with Nancy Shaw and prepares a weekly vegetarian lunch for interested company and staff members.

Anne Congdon
Board Member
One of my very first dates with George Congdon, (in 1979) was to this professional theatre with a strange name that had just moved to Malvern. Although I had never heard of People’s Light and Theatre Company, George assured me that he had seen them perform at Strode’s Mill and thought they were very good. I don’t remember what that first play I saw was, I just know I was very impressed and I think we became subscribers almost immediately, bringing friends and family whenever possible.

It wasn’t long before People’s Light co-founder Danny Fruchter learned that George was a developer—and Danny had several building projects in mind. The farmhouse, which housed the administrative offices needed renovation to include actor housing as part of the project; a brand new administration building needed to be built; and eventually a banquet facility was constructed. George met the challenge and managed to call in a lot of favors from building suppliers, contractors and landscapers to get the jobs done at minimal cost.

Soon George joined the Board of Directors and served until his death in 1998. While on the Board, he was one of the main forces behind the launch of Project Discovery which would bring to the theatre all Chester County junior and senior high school students twice a year. This project started in 1988 and continues today.

While George was busy improving the physical facilities, I served on gala committees, (co-chairing one with former board member Margarett McKeel), auction, and other committees. Our youngest son, Greg, while taking a semester off from college, even got into the act. He was offered a job operating a moving spotlight for The Lady Sings the Blues. We had to apologize to the stage manager because occasionally Greg forgot to follow the actor with the spotlight. Luckily, he decided to pursue a different profession.

As a longtime subscriber and donor I have always been very involved and enthusiastic about the mission of the theatre and the quality of the actors, productions, and its leadership. Now, as a Board member myself, I have had the opportunity to get to know the theatre on an even more personal basis. I have had the opportunity to share my home for Spotlight Society gatherings and for Auction donation social functions. Also, it has been a privilege to supply housing for several visiting actors and directors.

If I sound like a proud parent, that’s how I feel. I have watched People’s Light for almost 30 years as it has grown from its infancy to adulthood, overcoming many inconceivable obstacles to continue on its path of innovation and creativity and artistic excellence, enhancing my life, and I believe, many others.

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