NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 13, 2013

A place to call home

Georgetown Theatre Workshop relocates to Amesbury theater

By Mac Cerullo
Staff writer

---- — Rebounding from the loss of the only home it ever knew, the Georgetown Theatre Workshop has resettled in Amesbury and will perform at the Sparhawk School theater going forward.

The long-running amateur theater group had been facing an uncertain future following the sale of the Pentucket Workshop building in Georgetown, the group’s home of nearly 40 years, but upon reaching a three-play agreement with Sparhawk School officials for the upcoming year, group president Christopher Dollas said things are looking up.

“They have essentially saved us from oblivion, or at least from being nomadic,” Dollas said.

The Georgetown Theatre Workshop had performed at the Pentucket Workshop since September 1974, but was displaced after the property’s owner put the building up for sale last year. The group looked into a number of new locations at churches and halls throughout the area before a member with connections at Sparhawk School suggested inquiring about the theater there.

Dollas said conversations with the school went well, and the group was invited to use the theater to put on its May performance of “Greater Tuna.” After that, the school’s theater arts teachers helped facilitate further discussions between the group and Louise Stilphen, the school’s founder and headmaster, and eventually an agreement was reached.

“She made us feel like she wanted us there,” Dollas said, adding that the group’s experience with the school in May was positive and he felt the two entities were compatible.

Besides gaining a measure of stability moving forward, the Georgetown Theatre Workshop will also benefit from the improved facilities provided by the Sparhawk School theater compared to its old location.

Sparhawk offers a much-larger backstage area and a better dressing room setup than the Georgetown Workshop did, and it’s also air-conditioned, which the old theater wasn’t, Dollas said. The room itself is also much more spacious, allowing the group to accommodate bigger crowds than were possible before.

“Our space in Georgetown could probably safely hold 70 people, and we’ve always done cabaret-style with tables and chairs, so we were limited in space,” Dollas said. “At the Sparhawk theater, there is much more space, so we could expand that to 100 or more.”

The group will also have access to the school’s sound system and lights, which are both major improvements over the systems the group had previously used, and it will be able to store its chairs and tables at the school, as well.

The biggest change that guests will notice is the new building’s improved accessibility. Previously, guests would have to park on the street and climb a set of stairs to reach the theater, but now guests will have access to a spacious parking lot and be able to walk right into the theater at ground level. Dollas said this would be a particular benefit for the group’s many elderly fans who used to have difficulty getting into the old building.

“We have a wonderful following of seniors who come to our plays, and they had to struggle going up the steps,” Dollas said. “But they always kept coming back.”

Georgetown Theatre Workshop’s next play is “In-Laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should Be Shot).” Performances are currently scheduled for Nov. 15-16 and Nov. 21-23, and auditions will be held in the Sparhawk School theater this Sunday at 6:30 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m.

The theater is located at Sparhawk’s high school campus at 196 Main St., the former home of the Amesbury Playhouse.