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Forge Theatre: A Pioneer of Community-Based Acting

By Marina Jokic

The Forge Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania is poised to start its fall season with some winning productions. From Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to Avenue Q, the community theater has a lot in store for its audience this year. President of Forge Marnie Herzfeld is excited to bring to life a range of performances including The Laramie Project, The 1940's Radio Hour, and The Dixie Swim Club.

"Our members are the people who put on the shows," Herzfeld said. "They may be on stage or backstage, [and] many times, the cast become s very close-knit and the actors [grow to be] part of our Forge family."

One might think that the Forge Theatre cast is a group of amateurs. To the contrary, the volunteers are highly talented, trained, and devoted to their craft. In fact, some of them go on to work as professional actors and find the practice they received while at Forge to be invaluable for their careers.

For most of its history, Forge has been located on First Avenue in a converted funeral home. Despite the seemingly grim history of its location, the theater was transformed into a cozy and inviting space holding up to 100 guests for any one performance. Thanks to the untiring help of its volunteers and the support of the local community, Forge is able to provide a first-class, intimate theater experience.

"The theatre is a small black box venue seating between 80 and 100 people," Herzfeld said. "As such, the patron is very close to the performers and has an intimate theater experience; everyone can see and hear well, [and] we accommodate special seating requests at floor level."

Forge Theatre is living its mission every day, namely to entertain and enrich the surrounding community by providing a unique and intimate experience that is perhaps elusive at larger venues. Its performances tend to be classic and traditional, but, as Herzfeld points out, there is at least one edgier play or musical in the annual repertoire just to spice things up.

One of their upcoming plays, Vania and Sonia and Masha and Spike, is a humorous adaptation of Chekhov's themes; it explores the relationships of three middle-aged single siblings during a visit by Masha, who supports the other two. It's a depiction of everyday life and human behavior, a lighthearted comedy with satiric undertones. On the other hand, The Laramie Project deals with a much graver theme. It features 60 interviews about the reaction to the 1998 hate crime murder of University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.

"We try to strike a balance between modern and classical works," Herzfeld said.

Forge Theatre offers special discounts to members and season ticket holders. Each ticket is good for one or two seats for any single production, and season ticket holders may make reservations before the show is opened to the general public.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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