Troupe corners the theater market in Historic Ellicott City

July 19, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

In a story in Sunday's Howard County Sun, the show time of a play at the Little Theater on the Corner in Ellicott City was reported incorrectly. "Monkey Mountain Madness" was presented at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Howard County Sun regrets the error.

To the relief of Ellicott City residents who still remember going to movies there, a group of performers are once again giving purpose to The Little Theater On The Corner.

The 126-seat theater at the corner of Main Street and Old Columbia Pike closed last summer when Onstage Productions moved out because of financial problems.


Now, the Ashling Theater Center, dedicated to setting up community theaters, has made Ellicott City its latest project.

Folk musicians, actors and writers have collaborated on "Monkey Mountain Roads," a variety show that is mostly the David Mamet play, "The Duck Variations." The show's final performance is scheduled for tonight at 8 p.m.

"I think its great. I think we need theater in Ellicott City," said local historian Joetta Cramm. "I think anything like that gives the town vitality and culture, so more power to them." Built in 1940 as the Ellicott Theater, the building operated for many years as a movie house. For eight years, it served as a children's theater and acting classroom under Onstage Productions.

"We've been in the process of really restoring it and fixing it up a great deal. We've gone in and repaired all the lighting, reinstalled the theater seats," said M. Thomas Diffendal, president of PCF Management. The company is offering to lease the building to the theater company.

Donald Kennedy, Ashling's executive director, said the group hopes to make the little theater its new base of operations. The two-year old group started "Monkey Mountain Roads" as a work-in-progress at the Waverly Presbyterian Church in Baltimore.

"We hope to keep it going in one form or another and use it as sort of a lead horse," from which the group can launch similar efforts in other communities, he said.

Mr. Kennedy said he was interested in what Onstage was doing with the theater, but never got the chance to see it.

"All of a sudden, I stopped seeing their [newspaper] ads. I stopped to check it out and it was empty."

When the group's members stand on the sidewalk to hand out balloons and fliers, many local residents ask what will become of the theater, Mr. Kennedy said.

"There's a lot of strong feeling about doing something for the kids in the community," he said. He said the group is considering putting on acting classes for children.

Classes and possible monthly memberships will augment the limited income ticket sales will provide, he said.

Through Thursday night's performance, the play has yet to fill half the theater's seats, but news about the theater's revival is spreading.

"I'm very encouraged, because we're starting to get reservations and inquiries from the community, instead of just friends of the cast and so on. Little by little, I think we are getting the word out and people are responding to what we are doing."

Mr. Kennedy said that through August, the group will gauge its community support and viability through class enrollment, memberships and attendance at performances.

Tickets for tonight's performance of "Monkey Mountain Roads" are $5 for general admission, $4 for students and seniors and $3 for children. Information on classes and memberships can be obtained by calling 235-5357.

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