Broken furnace cancels today's performance of "Veronica's Veil"

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John Beale, Post-Gazette
Cheryl Fromby and Marilyn Rush, cast members in "Veronica's Veil," react to hearing that last night's and this afternoon's performances of the 87th annual edition of the passion play have been canceled because of a broken furnace.
Click photo for larger image.

"Veronica's Veil" is on the ropes. Last night's and this afternoon's performances of the 87th annual edition of the passion play have been canceled because of a broken furnace at the auditorium where they perform at 44 Pius St., South Side, according to the Veronica's Veil Players group.

Rehearsals last week were conducted wearing coats and using space heaters, which the group had hoped would see them through the opening of this year's curtailed two-weekend schedule. Friday's opening performance went on as planned, but about two dozen patrons left midway because of the cold.

Behind the furnace problem lies the group's continuing financial problems. "We haven't had the money to get the furnace fixed," said Dennis Thumpston, the group's managing director.

The auditorium is actually part of the former St. Michael's School, part of the former Prince of Peace parish. The handsome auditorium seats 800.

The board of directors was to meet late last night and decide whether to try to perform next weekend, as originally scheduled --- with or without a functioning furnace. One alternative is to postpone the passion play until June, although its subject matter is tied to Lent.

First staged in 1910, "Veronica's Veil" is said never to have been canceled except for bad weather. Many of its performers have been part of the show for decades and their families for generations.

"I'll be here," said Bernie Switala, 28, toting his Roman soldier's armor, when asked if he would return for later performances. "I've been in the show for 28 years -- the first time when I was 2 weeks old -- and I'm not stopping now."


Post-Gazette theater editor Christopher Rawson can be reached at crawson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1666.


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