Similar names, different missions for Sewickley's two theater companies

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Recently, two theater companies have been established in Sewickley, both sharing the goal of promoting the arts in their community.

However, the similarities of the Village Theater Company and the Sewickley Area Theatre Company end just about there. These two organizations have very different approaches in how they plan to bring the arts to their town.

Village Theater was formed to build a multiscreen movie theater on Walnut Street in the heart of Sewickley. Its goal is to provide a new outlet for entertainment and business.

There will be two screens at the theater -- one with seating for 150 and the other with seating for 250, as well as a community room that "can be used for displaying still-life media arts along with hosting film talks and educational speaker series," said Patty Jones, treasurer and member of the company's board of directors.

The group plans to offer first-run independent and foreign films, classics, second-run films, and educational programming and film festivals.

Its goal is to raise $1.5 million in pledges before breaking ground for the theater. According to the group's website, they have raised $1.2 million. Construction should take approximately six months.

Susan Kaminski, vice president of Village Theater Company, said the group "will be bringing cultural and educational opportunities" to the community "via the world of film."

It distinguishes itself from the Sewickley Area Theater Company in its collaboration with "cultural, educational, and philanthropic entities in the community," Mrs. Jones said.

The group partners with the Sewickley YMCA in supporting the Y's childcare and summer camp programs, and with the local schools' film and foreign language clubs and Sewickley Library's teen and adult programs.

The newly formed Sewickley Area Theatre Company is a community-oriented theatre company with the goal of producing two full-length musicals per year -- one in the summer and one in the fall, with additional plays and special events added periodically. The company plan to stage their performances in a variety of already-existing venues throughout the town.

Sewickley Area Theatre Company's objectives are to provide affordable, high-quality theatre productions, and to promote local artists, employing them in all aspects of their productions. They want to prevent theatre enthusiasts from having to leave the community "for quality entertainment." The organization also plans to provide educational workshops for youths and adults.

David Ford, president of the theatrical company, said there has been some confusion about the difference between his organization and the Village Theater Company.

He said the Sewickley Area company is dedicated to performance of live theatre, and the Village Theater Company is dedicated to building and maintaining a movie theater.

"In other words, live theatre versus a movie theater," he said. "The truth is that the companies differ significantly, which is even reflected in the names of the companies."

Mr. Ford said his group decided to use the traditional spelling of theatre as it is often referred to by companies that produce live theatre. He said the Village Theater Company spells the word in "modern fashion," as it is often spelled when referencing a movie theater.

He said both forms of entertainment are long overdue in Sewickley.

"This is a community that is ripe with passion for the arts," Mr. Ford said. "If these companies were not established now, it would have been only a matter of time."

Ms. Kaminski thinks that the two groups will keep vitality in Sewickley.

"To maintain vibrancy in our town, it is essential to have this varied mix of both fixed and dynamic arts outlets," she said. "The Village Theater Company is building a film institute that will present independent and foreign films to the community, accompanied by educational programming."

She said that, because the facility will be open year-round, it will be able to draw patrons to Sewickley on a weekly basis. On the other hand, the "Sewickley Area Theatre Company will be producing two musicals a year, plus additional, periodic special events utilizing the town's existing live venue performance spaces."

"Live theater, regularly produced, will dynamically draw patrons to our community," she added. "Establishing both the Village Theater Company and the Sewickley Area Theatre Company creates a more robust model for promotion of the arts, whereby each piece will ultimately enjoy stronger success. This success will translate into continued vibrancy for Sewickley, continuously engaging people in and around our community."

Shellie Petri Budzeak, freelance writer:

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