As a high school football player, David Ford had never attended a musical -- until he auditioned for one.
He was persuaded by a friend to try out for his high school's production of "The Pirates of Penzance" and was cast in a leading role.
Fast-forward to the present, and Mr. Ford is president of the newly formed Sewickley Area Theater Company, a community-based company that intends to put on two full-length musicals per year, with plays and other events added periodically.
The company was incorporated Aug. 1 and is applying for nonprofit status. It will hold its first official fundraiser and launch party Oct. 20 at the Sewickley Speakeasy.
The company does not yet have a place to hold its performances, so venues for now will be secured on a production-by-production basis. Eventually, the theater company would like to reach an arrangement with one venue so that all shows are in the same location.
One thing is certain, however, Mr. Ford said: Each production will be performed in the area of Sewickley and its nearby municipalities.
"The idea of starting a theater company has long been in the back of my mind," Mr. Ford said. After being cast in the high school play, he said, he discovered he was "enamored" with theater and became involved at the college, community, semi-professional and professional levels.
The mission of the Sewickley Area Theater Company is "to extend cultural appreciation of the arts" in the community through "productions, educational opportunities and the involvement of volunteers," Mr. Ford said. It plans to employ local talent in all aspects of production and to provide a platform for theater enthusiasts to participate in and enjoy the arts.
The feedback the company has gotten so far has been "overwhelmingly positive," Mr. Ford said. In addition to those who have said they want to attend the shows, performers have thanked him for providing an opportunity for them to share their talent with the community and others have expressed interest in working behind the scenes.
"We are always looking for a helping hand in any of our many aspects of production," Mr. Ford said.
He hopes community members will support the theater company in the same way they have shown support for the Village Theater Company, an organization recently formed with the goal of bringing a unique movie theater to Sewickley.
As president of the company, Mr. Ford will be joined on the board of directors by vice president Jeffrey Way, treasurer Lauren Seeger and secretary Jenna Rae Panza.
"I knew that in order to turn the pipe dream into a reality, it would take the perfect combination of elements," Mr. Ford said. "Each member on our board of directors significantly contributes one or more of these required elements."
He spoke of Mr. Way's performance experience, his eye for design and construction ability. He said Ms. Seeger has experience in direction, production and working as treasurer for other organizations, and Ms. Panza is bringing "professional West Coast experience" to the board, with knowledge of the business end of theatrical productions.
"As cliché as it may sound, it truly does take a village to produce quality theater, and I could not be more honored to work with these fine people," he said.
The theater company's advisory board includes Lou Valenzi and Jerry Communale.
Mr. Valenzi is director of music ministries at St. James Parish in Sewickley and a music teacher at Quaker Valley Middle School. He has performed with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, acted on "The Young and the Restless" and directed several local high school productions.
Mr. Communale served as the co-producer/artistic director of the local Camelot Productions from 1973 to 1980 and has been in more than 180 productions, including performances with actors Tony Randall and Harvey Keitel. Mr. Communale is the dramatics coach for Quaker Valley High School musical productions.
Sewickley Area Theater Company will hold its launch party and fundraiser at 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Sewickley Speakeasy. A donation of $20 per person is requested; appetizers will be served and theater company members will perform.
No fundraising goal has been set, but Mr. Ford noted the "staggering costs" of putting on a musical or other of production, including production rights, costumes, lighting and sets.
"SATC will most definitely enhance not only [the village of] Sewickley, but the entire Sewickley area," Mr. Ford said. "I think it's time to give back to our own community."
Shellie Petri Budzeak, freelance writer: email@example.com.