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Many groups work to keep county residents entertained

Cultural District
A collection of paintings represents the Musical Theatre Guild of Butler productions dating back to 1962 at the MTG’s William A. Lehnerd Performance Hall & Production Center in Memorial Park. Butler Eagle File Photo

Plans are moving forward for the Butler Cultural District. The area bordered by East Jefferson, North Main, Howard, North McKean and Franklin streets, launched earlier this month with its Visions of CommUnity event.

But residents of Butler County always have had a variety of programs, events, concerts and exhibits to choose from.

For example, the Maridon Museum, 322 N. McKean St., while included in the new cultural district, has been exhibiting its collection of more than 800 Chinese and Japanese art objects, as well as its 300 pieces of Meissen porcelain dating to the 18th century.

Roxanne Booser, executive director of the museum, said the collections were donated by lifelong collector and Butler resident Mary Hulton Phillips.

In addition to the art, Booser said the museum offers special events such as its Asian film series which is slated to resume next spring.

“We’re partnering with Slippery Rock University professors in its Asian studies group,” said Booser. “They select an movie to show, discuss the culture of the country and the history of the director, compare them to American movies.” The film screenings, when they resume, are free.

Booser said the museum plans to host, again in the spring, occasional Dharma session offering an opportunity to explore Buddhism, meditation and yoga.

Booser said the museum also offers a monthly Asian book club meeting at 3 p.m. on the last Thursday of the month. Booser asks those wanting to attend to call the museum at 724-282-0123.

Butler County Symphony Orchestra

From sights to sound, for nearly 75 years the Butler County Symphony Orchestra has serenaded the local community.

County residents enjoy free summertime concerts in Diamond Park beside the symphony office from expert musicians and concerts featuring music from Christmas classics to Broadway to Beethoven.

The symphony’s mission to introduce classical music to youths takes a small group of members to visit local schools. Other programs of note to provide opportunities for budding musicians are the symphony’s Side-by-Side Concert, the Young Musicians of Note Program, the Orchestra Partnership Program, and the Collegiate Concerto Competition.

God’s Country

Music of a different sort is provided by God's Country which is both a country worship service of First United Methodist Church in Butler and the God's Country Band, an eight-piece group that provides the music.

God’s Country has a regular 7 p.m. Saturday service at First United’s Crossfire campus at 1802 N. Main St. Extension.

Von McCommons, who has been the worship leader for the past 11 years, said God’s Country began as an outreach program 19 years ago and bloomed into its own ministry.

“It’s a church service with country music, country rock and southern gospel,” McCommons . “It’s spiritually enlightening and entertaining. We’ve got a great band. They’re all professional musicians, and we have volunteers that greet and hand out coffee.”

Attendance is still down from the prepandemic services, he said, but the Saturday services are currently drawing 90 attendees.

“We get good, old regular folks. We get people from the Gaiser Center who are looking to get out of their addictions,” he said.

McCommons added “We’re making music as best we can and leading people to God.”

Butler Little Theatre

Butler Little Theatre has been in operation longer than God’s Country. It just kicked off its 81st season as one of the oldest continuously active theater groups in the United States.

Sue Collar, chairwoman of the board of directors, said the Little Theatre puts on four productions during its season, which runs from September to May. Each production consists of eight performances in its 155-seat theater at 1 Howard St.

Collar stressed all shows use volunteers for actors, directors, producers, designers, costuming, production crews, public relations, box office operations and ushers.

“The actors are volunteer. Everything is volunteer, the actors, the people on stage, the people backstage,” Collar said.

“For instance, a recent production had five actors on stage and 25 to 30 people backstage, ushers, door people, many, many hands,” she said.

Collar, who has been involved with the Butler Little Theatre for 60 years for many, many shows, said the next production will be an adaption of “A Christmas Carol” by local writer Paul Haughy. It will run Dec. 2 through Dec. 10.

“He just changed a few things, maybe made it a little more humorous,” said Collar, referring to the original version by Charles Dickens.

The Butler Little Theatre also offers children’s theater classes during the summer months, followed by full-stage performances presented by students aged 6 to 21. These productions are staffed by student directors, designers, and other creative positions who are mentored by volunteers from the theater.

Pioneer Players

While Butler Little Theatre has been in existence for 80 years, the Pioneer Players at Butler County Community College will return next year after a hiatus.

Chris Bondi, professor of communications in the School of Liberal Arts at BC3, has signed on as the reconstituted Pioneer Players adviser.

Speaking of the reason for the stoppage, Bondi said, “I think they had some organizational and advisory reshuffling.” He said he was in the early stages of getting the group back up and running.

Bondi said the acting troupe is open to BC3 students, members of the public and former students.

“We’re planning a production in February around Valentine’s Day. It will be a night of original monologues in cooperation with the Writers Club,” he said. “These are monologues that center on the theme of love.”

The Pioneer Players perform in Succop Theater on the BC3 campus.

Slippery Rock University

The Slippery Rock University Theatre Department’s 2022-23 season is in full swing at the East Stoner Black Box Theater. The season’s second production will be “Head Over Heels” from Nov. 17 to 21. Tickets can be purchased online at sru.edu/tickets.

SRU's Department of Dance produces multiple performances annually, providing students with valuable opportunities to hone their performance skills to meet the demands of the profession. Additionally, the Department of Dance annually commissions renowned guest artists to campus to teach master classes, workshops, create works and set historical or contemporary repertory for SRU dance majors.

Upcoming performances include the SRU Dance Theatre Fresh Moves Showcase Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 at the Dance Studio Theater at Stoner West; SRUDT Emerging Artists Dance Concert, Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 in Miller Theater at the Performing Arts Center; Dancing with the SRU Stars in March in the Dance Studio Theater at Stoner West; The Epilogue: A BFA Senior Dance Concert, April 22 in the Dance Studio Theater at Stoner West; and BFA Independent Dance Concert, April 22 in the Dance Studio Theater at Stoner West.

The Musical Theatre Guild of Butler’s fall production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes” just ended.

Founded in 1962, the guild is a nonprofit community theater organization specializing in the production of Broadway-style musicals. Most major productions are presented in large auditoriums such as the Succop Theater at Butler County Community College or Butler Senior High School with smaller-scale musicals staged in the intimate William A. Lehnerd Performance Hall at MTG’s Production Center in Butler’s Memorial Park.

MTG provides an opportunity for professional and amateur actors, singers, musicians, dancers, and backstage production crews to work together on numerous projects throughout the year.

Malena Maust was among 14 dance majors to perform in Slippery Rock University’s Dance Theatre Winter Concerts in February 2017. SUBMITTED PHOTO
God's Country worship service features a band playing inspirational country gospel music at the Crossfire campus at 1802 N. Main St. Extension. Butler Eagle File Photo
Butler Little Theatre’s production of “Our Town”ran in May 2018. Butler Eagle File Photo

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