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After 65 Seasons, the Lights Never Go Dark At Lake Worth Playhouse

By Pamela Sosnowski

Compared to other American theaters, the Lake Worth Playhouse may be on the modest side, considering it seats up to 300 theatergoers. But don't let its smaller size fool you; it's one of Lake Worth's oldest and most notable Art Deco buildings, and the theater company that calls it home has been around since 1953. Now in its 65th season, the Playhouse is gearing up to host musicals such as Saturday Night Fever, Bye Bye Birdie, and more.

As Nicole Laing, the Playhouse's director of marketing and PR explains, the venue offers a chance to not just see quality theater productions, but to get involved by volunteering. As a nonprofit community theater, the Playhouse relies upon contributions and volunteers to keep the shows going season after season.

"On a mission to provide premium entertainment, education and artistic opportunities through volunteerism and community involvement, the Lake Worth Playhouse enhances the community," she said. "By welcoming volunteers into the creative process, we inspire community service. By offering quality shows at low prices, we create theatre enthusiasts. Through our education programs, we foster up-and-coming artists."

The Playhouse itself occupies what was originally known as the Oakley Theater, which opened its doors in 1924 by two brothers that dreamed of operating a movie theater during the era of silent films. Four years later the building was destroyed by a hurricane, but rebuilt by the brothers. Their success was short-lived, for the Great Depression bankrupted the siblings and the theater remained vacant and in disrepair until 1953, when a group of Lake Worth citizens saw a need for the building. They formed the Lake Worth Playhouse and staged four productions per year in Lake Worth City Hall.

A lack of air conditioning and an elevator plus growing demand for the shows prompted the group to purchase the Oakley Theater in the 1970s and begin the renovation process. Today the theater is actually one of three performance venues managed by the theater company. There's the 300-seat main stage, a 53-seat black-box-style movie theatre that screens classic and newer releases, and a rehearsal hall/education space) that is available to rent. This upholds the Playhouse's "never be dark" policy and guarantees diverse programming throughout the year.

Today the Playhouse stages dramas, comedies, musicals, live music, children's shows, and more. Acting classes are available for aspiring thespians of all ages, and the Playhouse's outreach program works with the local community and its schools to give disadvantaged students a chance at trying their hands at acting. A popular summer camp series for kids also teaches acting, voice, dance and stage movement, culminating in campers staging a performance at the end of the summer season.

The Playhouse's Black Box Series gives playwrights a chance to have their work showcased.

"Our director of the series reads dozens of plays over a period of a few months and selects three plays per season from nationally or internationally established playwrights that are relevant to issues facing everyday people," Laing said. "The series is important in that it allows the Playhouse to produce edgier material and to take more creative risks than it can with its main stage fare."

The box office is located in the Playhouse's lobby and sells tickets Monday through Saturday. Tickets for performances may also be purchased online. To see all upcoming shows for the 2017-2018 season, visit the Playhouse's website at http://lakeworthplayhouse.org.

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