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Huntington Has New Summer Theatre Group at Park Amphitheatre
HART is a collaborative effort of the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District and community theatre veterans Clint McElroy and Tommy and Mary Smirl. It will fill a void in the local arts community left by the Huntington Outdoor Theatre, which ended a 20-year run at the Ritter Park Amphitheater in 2013.
McElroy said during a press conference at the Ritter Park Rose Garden that HART will start with two productions this summer.
Mayor Williams described this venture as a community project for the community and expressed his enthusiasm as Huntington continues its process of rejuvenation, and includes this presentation of the arts to its residents, the region and visitors from all over the country and the world.
Tyson Compton, CVB President, commented that this venture will add to the array of attractions for visitors to Huntington and will provide residents a great opportunity to share community theater productions with their out of town visitors.
Clint McElroy indicated that a play he authored will be the feature presentation of the 2015 season, and described this partnership, not as something new that would exclude other theater groups, but a continuation of the great works that have been presented at the Ritter Park Amphitheater that would include local theater groups and reach out to the amazing talent within the region.
Tommy Smirl, local business owner and a community theater veteran, explained that the partnership was developed to enable more people to participate in theater productions, and that the trio of theater activists developed the concept of HART to enable them (the trio) to give back to the community and explained that they were not involved for monetary gain.
Mary Smirl, long time theater director and choreographer, said the kick-off production for this upcoming season summer would be “Nunsense” a hilarious play that features five nuns, who will be played by Mary Williams, Jane Modlin, Cindy Westbrook, Mary Olson and Meg Barber. The production will be choreographed by Sarah Hayes and Mark Smith will direct the music.
The Park District Director told of plans to make improvements to the Ritter Park Amphitheater, which turned 100 years old back in September.
Mayor Steve Williams was in attendance and briefly spoke about the city's need for the arts.
"The Huntington Outdoor Theatre announced they were ending a glorious 20-year run, and GHPRD and theatre veterans quickly filled the void," Williams said. "I think that says we're not only dedicated to the arts in this community, but that we are also a strong community."
McElroy said HART at the Ritter Park Amphitheater will be a regional attraction where all theatre groups can come together to create an artistic platform for the community. He also said HART will produce an original musical about Huntington founder Collis P. Huntington. "Collis P!" is slated to open summer 2015.