An opportunity to act out someone else’s words; to grow and step outside of oneself; to portray a character in a different time period; and finally, a chance to perform in front of a packed house. The polished final product onstage is the results of much time and effort no one sees behind the scenes.

Stark and Summit counties are blessed to have such community-based theaters such as Theatre 8:15 in Green and the North Canton Playhouse to give actors and actresses – young and old – the chance to live out their dreams.

The founders of each organization have since passed away. Theatre 8:15, located at 4740 Massillon Road, was founded in 1992 by Fred McWhorter and Richard Moore. The North Canton Playhouse, 525 7th St.  NE, North Canton, located inside North Canton Hoover High School, was founded in 1976 by Leonard and Mary McManaway.

"Fred and Richard began with Theatre Dance Centre, originally in Canal Fulton, then moved to Green after the theater opened and they were able to purchase the building we are in today," said Dawna Kornick, who has been with the theatre in some capacity since its inception. "Community theater is dedicated to nurturing and showcasing talent of all ages."

Before moving to North Canton, McManaway was involved in theater productions in Wapakoneta. Once the family moved to North Canton, she became founder of the North Canton Playhouse. The Playhouse’s first home was a rental building from the Hoover Company.

Kornick said the mission has been to provide our community with affordable, high quality theatrical productions featuring the finest in local talent of all ages.

The two groups have similar mission statements. According to the North Canton Playhouse website, charity and education institution to provide entertainment, enrichment, education and encourage theatrical art.

"Our group is comprised of all types, professionals and amateurs, actors and stage hands, young and old, that all unite with a common goal: To create great theatre along with fun and friendships," said Kornick, who started with the organization as a volunteer and working tech when her daughter was in dance classes at the Theatre Dance Center. "Our group has performed many acclaimed productions and has received multiple Ohio Community Theatre Association awards for our efforts."

Facing challenges

Local theaters face many challenges, often relying on volunteers and the support of the community through ticket sales and fundraisers.

"We are 501c3 Non Profit," said Kornick. "All of our funding is through ticket sales, donations or if we are lucky enough to get a grant. Recently, we won a grant from MTI to allow us the ability to do a huge musical."

Kornick said when the theatre is need of repairs; oftentimes they will do a 50-50 raffle during the shows. Typically, patrons know what the funds are earmarked for which repair. Theatre 8:15 is also looking at applying for some grants.

The theater organization sponsors a 24 hour fundraising event which usually takes place in August titled "Play in A Day." This event is a family fun event for all ages with no long term time commitment. The play is written, cast, staged, rehearsed and performed in 24 hours. This fundraiser includes individuals of all age and no experience is necessary.

The North Canton Playhouse also has an annual fundraiser called Curtain Up, which typically takes place in April.

Theatre 8:15 does five to six productions a year plus the yearly fundraiser along with a children’s workshop/classes that includes a performance. Kornick said Theater 8:15 does a variation of themes for the yearly productions. The theater mainly focuses on children, teens and young adults but it has done plays with mature themes. Typically, in March and October it features local playwrights. Similarly, NPC does about five to seven productions a year.

Kornick said the productions have a core group of actors from Green, Manchester, Springfield and Jackson, mostly with kids/teens, but she said Theatre 8:15 has had actors from Tuslaw, Wadsworth, Cuyahoga Falls, Stow, Bath, Revere, Hudson and even as far away as Youngstown and University Heights. Kornick said they are in process of rebuilding their actor/cast base for adults since the passing or McWhorter.

"Children/teens have been very interested in working with us," said Kornick. "We send information via flyers to surround schools. It’s a great learning experience and a clean safe environment. … we are a suitable arts environment for acting, singing and helping with painting or sets, props or even the concession area.

"Adults are a little tougher to get, with work schedules and kids activities, but that is improving slowly. Usually, it’s through contact with friends and co-actors or networking with other area theatres or electronic media."

The North Canton Playhouse also focuses on youth plays and workshops. Since its inception, there have been 1,100 youth performances and more than $600,000 donated in grants.

About the threaters

Theatre 8:15 can seat 78 people comfortable, depending on the staging, but can go as high as 90, which is a tight fit, said Kornick. She said children’s shows typically sell out, fundraisers bring in 40 to 50 people and the working shops are steadily growing. The North Canton Playhouse has seating capacity of 100 people.

Ticket prices bring in most of the revenue for Theatre 8:15. For musical productions, adults are $15 and seniors/students are $13. Non-musical productions are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. Fundraiser are usually $25 per ticket which includes hors d’oeuvres, desserts and punch/coffee or wine.

To be fiscally responsible and save money, sets are built by volunteers, parents, directors, friends and cast members. Designs are simplistic, mainly paint and props but creative and inexpensive.

"The yearly budget for Theatre 8:15 is $12,000 to $15,000 depending on shows and royalties, set builds and costume directors and musical directors fees and/or musical accompanist," said Kornick. "Our expenses vary on each production but easily consume the same.

"The budget also includes property taxes, insurance, utilities, internet, website fees , ASCAP and repairs."

To learn more about future acting opportunities or volunteering time to help, look to NeOhioPal, Facebook, SummitLive 365, Cleveland and Akron Arts Alliance and flyers in surrounding schools.

"We certainly do not do this for the money," said Kornick, who took over the organization after McWhorter passed away in 2012. "Our reward is seeing the kids excel and having an outlet that is a safe nurturing environment for them to grow. Community theatre builds skills, self awareness, self confidence and pride."

To contact and become involved with each organization, please visit their websites or call at www.theatre815.com or call 330-896-0339; or www.northcantonplayhouse.com or call 330.494.1613.

Editor’s note: Several attempts were made to reach NCP. Information was obtained from its website.