Magical Theatre marking milestones in big year
Troupe plans performance at First Night Akron
|Holly Barkdoll and Dennis O’Connell are marking 20 years at the helm of Magical Theatre Company this season.|
|Photo courtesy of Magical Theatre Company|
The Northeast Ohio theater company for young audiences is marking some major milestones, according to co-directors Dennis O’Connell and Holly Barkdoll.
O’Connell, a native of West Akron, said the company was founded 40 years ago in Akron. Twenty years ago, he and Barkdoll took the helm of the theater, starting work just a week after they were married.
“We were on the road in New York and Florida working at summer stock and dinner theater,” Alliance native Barkdoll said. “We came back to plan our wedding and worked as actors and directors at the theater for a season. At the end of the season, the board decided to close the doors, because the theater was in financial disarray. At that point, our plan was to move to Chicago right after we were married, but we thought it would be sad to see the theater closed.
“We’d never run [a theater], but we saw a lot of wonderful things happening,” she added.
They and another partner put together a proposal that would see them run the theater and attempt to turn it around. The board agreed and gave the trio 60 days to try, and asked them to also plan a Christmas show. They did it, and the board gave them another 60 days, in which they delivered another successful show, and the rest is history.
O’Connell and Barkdoll said in their 20-year tenure, the thing they are proudest of is getting the company out of debt. They credit being financially conservative for their success.
“We knew how to say ‘no,’” O’Connell said.
“We didn’t spend what we couldn’t afford to spend,” Barkdoll added.
The company today produces a varied slate of shows each season that appeal to audiences ranging from age 4 to 18 who come to the 285-seat former Park Theater in Barberton. The company also brings shows and programs to schools and coordinates a successful summer camp program each year.
Barkdoll said one of her favorite programs they offer is KidScripts.
“We do a writing workshop with kids, and the kids write stories and schools submit the stories,” she said. “We choose two and do world premieres. This is our 17th year doing it, and it’s the most grueling thing we do, but also the most rewarding.”
The theater reaches youths and families in a 23-county area, O’Connell said.
“We have a really wonderful reach,” he said.
In addition to its anniversaries this year, the company has another reason to celebrate, as it just completed a sold-out run of its holiday show, “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” which ended up being its most successful show to date.
“It broke all our box office records,” Barkdoll said.
Now the couple is turning its attention to First Night® Akron, which they have been part of every year since it began 17 years ago. For this year’s New Year’s Eve event Dec. 31, Magical Theatre will be in the Auditorium of the Akron Art Museum presenting “Myths and Monsters: Tales from Greek Mythology.”
“It’s a collection of five or so myths, and we’ll have some really cool puppets and masks built for the production and cool visual elements,” O’Connell said.
Performances will be at 8:15 and 9:15 p.m. and are appropriate for younger audiences, he added.
To mark their big season of celebrations, O’Connell and Barkdoll said they are conducting a fundraising campaign called 20/20 Vision to help them with some needed renovations to their 1919 theater building. They have a goal to raise $15,000 in individual contributions.
For more information on Magical Theatre, go to www.magicaltheatre.org or call 330-848-3708. The theater is located at 565 W. Tuscarawas Ave. and its next show is “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” Jan. 25-27.
First Night Akron kicks off at 6 p.m. Dec. 31 and features activities at 10 Downtown Akron venues until midnight. For more information, go to www.firstnightakron.org or call 330-374-7690.
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