Little Lake Theatre leaders to step down

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Sunny Disney Fitchett and Robert Fitchett will step down in June 2015 as the artistic and managing directors of Little Lake Theatre in North Strabane. The community theater was founded in 1949 by Will Disney, Sunny’s late father, in a barn and with an in-the-round format that continues today.

When new leaders are chosen, it will be the first time in the theater’s 66-year history that there will not be a Disney on staff.

The Fitchetts will return to Robert’s native California to pursue their other passions — she plans to continue to write works for young audiences and he will return to working in the wine industry. Before they go, they will assist the board of directors in selecting new personnel and stay until the next season is underway.

After the press release was sent, Ms. Fitchett was vacuuming up after a rehearsal. “The glamorous life of community theater,” she said, laughing.

When she leaves, it’s with the assurance that the theater will continue what her family started all those decades ago. “We really do have a dedicated board of directors. When we spoke with them about it, the first thing the president of the board did was pass out the mission statement and said, ‘OK, are you guys in or out?’ And everyone said, ‘We’re in.’ ”

Mr. and Ms. Fitchett were living in Berkeley, Calif., with their son, Ben, when Will Disney had called in 1993 to say he was retiring and there was a buyer for the property. That’s when the husband-and-wife team decided it was time to move east and give running a theater a shot.

“My father always said we were a community theater with professional standards, and that’s what it’s always been,” said Ms. Fitchett, who added that some of her fondest memories were acting onstage with her father.

Since the Fitchetts have served at the helm of Little Lake, Mainstage and Looking Glass Theatre programming for young audiences has expanded; two fall family matinee presentations were added, along with a Theatre Arts Summer Camp for grades 4-12; adult acting classes and a technical theater training class; an apprentice program; and an educational touring company that performs in regional schools.

A statement earlier in the day had addressed the financial health of Little Lake, saying subscription sales continue to grow and this summer has seen a boost in attendance.

The statement continued, “Little Lake Theatre Company has made an energetic and successful transition from a family-run endeavor to a community-supported and governed 501(c)(3) arts organization. We’re looking forward to enjoying its continued growth and enrichment.”

Sharon Eberson:, 412-263-1960 or on Twitter SEberson_pg. First Published September 3, 2014 2:18 PM

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