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Stow Players' new season is in full swing heading into theater's 70th year

For those who don’t know, there is a hidden gem at 5238 Young Rd. in Stow.

It is Stow Players, a community theater that is both cozy and charming and is located in the Heritage Barn at Silver Springs Park. The theater accommodates 99 guests.

“People enjoy coming to see the shows,” said LeAnn Covey, a Stow resident who is in her fifth season as the organization’s president and who has acted and directed in a handful of its productions. “They like the intimate space, they always say the acting is really good, so much better than they think it’s going to be, even the kids shows. We are very much a local, community theater. We try to cater to families, and we try to cater to our senior citizens with shows that they can be in and shows that they enjoy coming to see.

“As far as how we choose our shows, we look at what’s popular in the area and what we can actually do in our space because our theater is a very intimate theater. Most of our shows are in the round, and we don’t use microphones, so the actors are kind of like right in the faces. The audience surrounds the action that’s happening. If you come to one of our shows, you’re in it, you’re in the middle of the show.”

Stow resident Tom Stephan has been involved with Stow Players for 52 years as a member of the board of directors at one time or another and as an actor.

“I think Stow Players is very important to the Stow-Munroe Falls community simply because the arts in all their forms are important to the overall benefit of the community,” he said. “It’s a benefit to everyone because all of the arts, especially the performing arts, give people an outlet that they may not ever find any other way.”

Stow Players puts on productions from November through March, on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.

“We try to have four to five productions a season,” Covey said. “Each production runs for about a month. If we have a fifth production, it’s usually a smaller production that will only run one or two weekends.”

Because of Covid, the theater was shut down.

“We skipped a season, which they had never done,” said Covey. “They’ve canceled shows before because of bad weather, but that was the first time a season was canceled. In March 2020, we had a musical called ‘Life Could Be a Dream.’ We did one weekend of it, and then Governor DeWine shut everything down, and we had to close the show. We couldn’t do the last two weekends of it, so we lost some money.”

The current version of Stow Players was incorporated in 1953. Prior to that, Stow had a couple different theater companies dating all the way back to the 1800s. The present rendition’s first season was 1953-54. Performances were originally done in the basement of old City Hall. Then, in 1983, Stow Players moved to the Heritage Barn. The building was specifically constructed for both Stow Players and the Stow Historical Society.

The actors are all from Northeast Ohio, including a couple from Stow, and they are all volunteers.

“We have open auditions,” said Covey, who is one of 20 volunteers who help run the organization. “We like to encourage new people to try out who have never tried it before. We have a wide variety of people coming in to act. We generally have new actors for each play.”

Most productions have been done at other theaters, but some are original.

“Last year, we put on ‘Into the Breeches,’” Covey said. “That premiered in Cleveland a year or two prior to us doing it. We were the first community theater in Northeast Ohio to do that show. We also have a local playwright named Brandi Eaton, who lives in Stow and graduated from Stow-Munroe Falls High School. We’re doing one of her original productions, ‘Matt’s First Real Wedding,’ in March that no one has ever seen before, so it will be like a world premiere. She wrote another play called ‘Matt’s First Real Thanksgiving’ that had been done in Northeast Ohio. We did a production of it but weren’t the first.”

According to Covey, the children’s shows are the most popular.

“The kids shows have been a big hit,” she said. “You have to be 17 years old or younger to be in those shows. There are no adults in them. We’ll have up to 30 kids in them. They run for two weeks and tend to sell out. Those kids come and they audition, and they come professionally prepared, and they’re just as good if not better than the adult actors who we have. Sometimes, we have family productions in which we cast adults and children.”

Covey teaches a children’s theater workshop through Stow Players and the Stow Parks and Recreation Department for eight weeks during the summer.

“It’s an exercise in being able to get up in front of people, it’s an exercise in learning and memorizing lines, it’s so many significant areas that we’re doing with kids,” said Stephan, who, in addition to teaching English, was the drama teacher and directed the all-school musicals at Stow High School for many years before retiring in 2001. “The kids love to act, they really do.”

The new season kicked off Friday, Nov. 11, with “Dorothy in Wonderland,” a children’s production directed by Covey and John Leasure. It will run through Sunday, Nov. 20.

“Our December musical, ‘The Great American Trailer Park Musical,’ is very trashy, for adults only,” said Covey. “No one under 18 will be admitted without an adult. There is some language in it. It’s hysterical, and people should come see it.”

Tickets for productions are $16 for adults and $12 for students, while tickets for musicals are $20 for adults and $15 for students.

Covey would like to get more donations and feedback from people.

“We’d like to hear what people want to see,” she said. “Actors tend to want to do productions that are more serious and drama related. Most audiences want to see productions that are funny, so we keep that in mind when we’re thinking about what kind of productions we want to do.

“Again, we’d also love for people who have never acted before to come and try out for some plays for us because we don’t bite. The point of community theater is to bring the community together. What people should know is, we have live theater right here in Stow, and they should come check us out.”

“I wish more people would come out to the Barn and see that we do a good job with all kinds of different levels of acting,” said Stephan. “I’m very proud of it.”

For more information about Stow Players, visit stowplayers.net. If you would like to share your feedback, call 234-206-0128 or email [email protected].