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Despite sale show must go on

The show must go on for Bracken Theatre, where Karen Padden, Kelly Clisham, Joe Palumbo and John Schugard will appear in ‘Anti-Depressants,’ four original plays by Tom Flannery of Peckville.

For Bracken Theatre, drama isn’t limited to the stage – especially this month. The actors just learned they’re going to lose the space they’ve rented for the past year because the old Showcase Theatre in Exeter is being sold.

“It was pretty unexpected. Our heads are spinning,” Bracken spokeswoman Kelly Clisham said. “We have to be out by Dec. 31.”

But you know the cliché: The show must go on.

Despite their worries, the players will try to lift everyone’s spirits with “Anti-Depressants,” four original plays by Tom Flannery of Peckville, to be presented tonight through Nov. 11.

One of the plays, “Love, Whales and Harpoons,” was written for two women, and there’s no denying it’s a case of art imitating life.

“Flannery wrote it with Bracken in mind,” said Clisham, who will appear in that piece opposite Karen Padden.

“It shows the behind-the-scenes workings of community theater. Two women show up at the board meeting, and they’re the only ones who show up, not for the first time, because somebody else had to work and people wandered off to other theaters.

“Their president said they can’t turn the heat on because they can’t afford to … and they have a choice to make, they can do a safe musical and guarantee that they’ll get an audience, or they can choose something original and not get the same audience draw.”

Money woes, artistic choices, even dressing in layers to cope with the cold – it all sounds familiar to Clisham.

What might not be too familiar to audiences is the premise of a second Flannery piece, “Men Who Hug in Bars.”

“Stereotypically, women have serious discussions with their friends, but you don’t often see guys’ friendship that way,” Clisham said. “These guys (played by Joe Palumbo and John Schugard) do have one of those conversations about their relationships.”

Palumbo and Schugard also appear as “Beckett and Ernie,” two average guys coping with a performance of the famous “Waiting for Godot.”

“This is about the average guy’s experience with theater,” Clisham said. “(‘Waiting for Godot’) is one of the plays you’re supposed to love because it’s a classic, but lots of people can’t understand it.”

The final Flannery play is the most serious. “Mary on the Backboard” offers a dialogue between a skeptic and a believer who prays before a basketball backboard where she believes the blessed mother appears.

“It’s a little bit of a discussion of finding faith and what faith means to people,” said Clisham, who plays the skeptic.

That may be her role on stage, but in real life, Clisham firmly believes – in Bracken’s future.

“We’re not giving up,” she said. “We might find a place that’s more centrally located or cheaper to heat.

“Hey, if anybody’s feeling charitable and has a space to rent …”

As a further display of hope, the folks at Bracken are looking beyond “Anti-Depressants” to the next production. They’ve set auditions for “The Rocky Horror Show,” which they hope to stage in January.

The director doesn’t know where it might be presented but wants the cast to be ready for what Clisham describes as “a proven crowd-pleaser” that could bring in much-needed revenue.

Auditions for “The Rocky Horror Show” will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday at Showcase Theatre, 54 Tunkhannock Ave., Exeter. People trying out are asked to come with a song prepared.

Show dates are Jan. 12-13 and 19-20. For more information, call the theater at 570-654-2555 or Paul Winarski at 570-793-1604.

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