Theater company producing second show Patuxent group's December offering: 'A Christmas Carol'

November 12, 1998|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

Getting a new professional theater company off the ground is never easy, especially if the theater is in an industrial business park on the northern edge of Columbia.

But artistic director Gary Goodson and managing director Sonny Lerner have managed that with Patuxent Theatre Company, which began its premiere season in September and will produce its second show, "A Christmas Carol," next month.

Patuxent Theatre Company was created from the seeds of a community theater of the same name, which stopped producing a few years ago.

Little by little, Lerner and Goodson set aside the money to open and run a professional Equity theater, which employs members of Actors' Equity Association.

While a community theater company will use amateur actors and behind-the-scenes personnel, Equity productions can cost thousands of dollars per show for actors' salaries and guild dues.

Lerner estimates that Patuxent Theatre Company, which performs at Drama Learning Center, a children's theater company and school in Columbia, will spend nearly $10,000 for each production.

During recent auditions for "A Christmas Carol," the holiday production based on the Charles Dickens novel, several actors -- professional and amateur -- read their lines while trying British accents.

Goodson, who wants to make "A Christmas Carol" an annual production, says the show is "tailored to get the most people in the door. They know what they're in for, and they know it'll be fun. We'll have time to do other, more 'serious' plays as the season goes on."

Melanie St. Ours, a 15-year-old Centennial High School student who read about the company's auditions in a newspaper, says having a new theater company in Howard County is a godsend.

"I think it's really important to have a number of professional outlets for professional actors," Melanie says. "Having another company will be really good for the whole region."

Lerner agrees.

"Howard County is a great place to have a theater company," he says. "There's a whole lot of people out here who want to have this sort of thing at their disposal.

"We'd like to be able to do regular, little-known plays, as well as some productions that'll bring people back to the theater," Lerner says. "I think we'll be able to produce high-quality shows that put warm bodies in the chairs."

Bob Russell, director of Columbia Community Theatre, says having another live theater venue in the region "makes it easier for the rest of us."

"People don't equate Columbia with live theater," Russell says. "That doesn't mean that we don't do it, it just means that we have to do a better job of offering what they'll want."

Valerie Costantini, producer and artistic director of the Rep Stage at Howard Community College, says she welcomes the proliferation of theater companies in the area.

"The more we have, the more people'll want to come to the theater, any theater," Costantini says. "One of the problems with becoming an Equity theater is that it's a real financial problem, especially in the beginning. But having professional actors also elevates the quality of the whole theater. All of the standards increase."

Equity theater doesn't equate with boring shows or pompous artists, Lerner says.

"We like to encourage our audience members to come dressed in character for the 'Christmas Carol' production," he says. "It's great to see everyone get in the act."

Patuxent Theatre Company's production of "A Christmas Carol" runs from Dec. 4 through Dec. 20. The company performs at Drama Learning Center Theatre, 9130-I Red Branch Road, Columbia. Tickets are $15. Information: 410-997-9352.

Pub Date: 11/12/98

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