50 and fabulous

Crossroads Repertory Theatre balances new and old with a special anniversary season lineup including past favorites and exciting modern productions.

Crossroads Repertory Theatre’s 50th summer season promises to be an homage to the past as well as an embrace of the future — in all ways.

In June and July, the company, which is under new leadership, will present four productions — bringing back “The Rainmaker” from the first season of what was then known as Summer Theatre and a musical cabaret featuring some of the company’s most-loved musical and cabaret performances and offering more modern productions “A Wrinkle in Time” and the Broadway blockbuster “Rent.”

“It’s like the wedding — we’ve got something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” said Chris Berchild, the theater company’s new artistic director and chair of the Indiana State University theater department. “We really feel like we have a little for everybody — a nod to the past, a nod to the present, a nod to the future. And we’re really excited about that.”

As the weather outside warms and everything — people, plants and animals — shake off the bite of winter — logistical plans for the season were being finalized and rehearsals about to start after the annual Memorial Day gathering of cast and crew.

The importance of the anniversary season was not lost on anyone involved.

“Any theater that is in its 50th year has got to be saluted,” said Bill Kincaid, director of “Wrinkle in Time” and professor of theater at Western Illinois University. “It’s really exciting that Terre Haute has supported this theater for this long, and this theater has been able to continue to give back to the community. I’m really honored to be a part of that 50th anniversary season. Not every theater survives for 50 years, and this one is not only surviving, but thriving. That’s exciting.”

A scene from the Indiana State University Summer Theater's production of "The Rainmaker" in the Hulman Center (now the Deming Center) in 1965 is seen.

A scene from the Indiana State University Summer Theater’s production of “The Rainmaker” in the Hulman Center (now the Deming Center) in 1965 is seen.

While Arthur Feinsod, professor of theater at Indiana State, has handed over the torch of artistic director to Berchild, his presence will still be front-and-center for the opening production, “The Rainmaker.”

“I’m very honored that Chris chose to have me do the first show of the anniversary season,” Feinsod said. “To do that play is a great honor and a play that I’ve done before, so it has sort of a double power for me — one, something I’ve done and loved working on many years ago, but now to bring it to this very important occasion to honor a very important company in the area, the only professional theater company in the Wabash Valley.”

Just because “The Rainmaker” is a classic play doesn’t mean it’s something you’ve seen before, as Feinsod promises to put his creative twist on the production.

“I think it’ll be like a rediscovery of a classic,” he said. “I think it will give them a new entry into the play and hopefully they’ll love it again for new reasons, as well as the old reasons.”

One thing that hasn’t — and will never change — is the impact Crossroads has on the American theater scene.

“We look back and we see a lot of actors who are on the stage in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, that have either come out our program and gone through Crossroads/Summer Stage or people who have dropped in and spent one or two summers with us along the way, who have worked with us as part of the development of their careers and have moved on to do really great things,” Berchild said. “It seems like everywhere I go, there’s some Crossroads alum who will say, ‘I worked with them in the 80s.’ ‘Do you know this person? He invited me in to do a small role.’ ‘I built the set for that and now I’m building sets for Disney.’ It’s interesting how small the world is and how interconnected this group that came out of these summers in Terre Haute have become.”

The company is also maintaining the tradition of finding new, exciting talent, while bringing back many of the audience’s favorite performers — both Crossroads alumni and Indiana State’s theater department to work with them this summer.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting mix of talent that should bring some really phenomenal professional theater to Terre Haute,” Berchild said.

About Crossroads Rep

Patrons of the first performance of Indiana State University's Summer Theater present their tickets to workers at the Hulman Center (now the Deming Center) in 1965.

Patrons of the first performance of Indiana State University’s Summer Theater present their tickets to workers at the Hulman Center (now the Deming Center) in 1965.

In 1965, the theater division of Indiana State’s department of speech began producing plays during the summer under the name ISU Summer Theatre. Led by Tom Headley, the company was composed of Indiana State students and theater faculty as an extension of the academic year.

Headley continued to secure Summer Theatre’s foothold and build its success until 1974, passing the torch to Jack Oblak. Two years later, Gary Stewart became artistic director and introduced sweeping changes, including a rotating repertory structure in 1976, changing the name to SummerStage in 1983, upgrading its status to a “Professional Stock Theater” in 1986 and hiring actors who were members of the Actor’s Equity Association.

Lew Hackleman was artistic director, 1999-2000, and was joined by Stewart as co-head for 2001. Feinsod took the reins the following summer, a position he held until this past season. In 2006, the company’s name was changed once again to the current Crossroads Repertory Theatre.

Through all the changes of the past five decades, one thing has remained constant — offering theatrical work of the highest caliber, from acting to special effects. The company’s innovative takes on classic plays and musicals continues to draw the best talent regionally, and alumni have been featured on prestigious marquees all over the nation and beyond.

The 2015 lineup:

— “The Rainmaker,” a classic romantic comedy set in Depression-era America by N. Richard Nash, will be re-envisioned by Feinsod for the Crossroads Rep stage.

— The children’s classic “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle is adapted for stage by John Glore and will be directed by Bill Kincaid of Western Illinois University. This wondrous story — and winner of the prestigious Newbery Award in 1963 — is a delight for audiences both young and old, exploding with imagination and stage magic and a sci-fi story that has entranced the world for decades.

— The Crossroads Rep will present a “50th Anniversary Musical Cabaret” honor of one of Terre Haute’s most treasured traditions, Summer Stage’s “Cabaret” performances. The evening of song will feature performances by members of the company and some familiar faces from seasons past. Directed by Michelle Azar, this performance will leave you singing these tunes, tapping your toes and smiling from ear to ear.

— Last, but certainly not least, Crossroads Rep rounds out the season with the modern musical tour de force, “Rent.” With book and music by Jonathan Larson, this Tony and Pulitzer Award-winning musical depicts a year in the life of young artists and musicians struggling against the odds to survive and create in New York’s Lower East Side. Directed by Berchild, it will feature a cast of spectacular young performers.

Season tickets are available for $52 each, and single-production tickets are $15-20 for general admission.

To buy tickets or donate to Crossroads Repertory Theatre, go to http://crossroadsrep.com or call the box office, which opens June 15, at 812-237-3333.

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