Theatergoers who attend Western Reserve Playhouse will see a spruced-up entrance inside the huge barn theater, including fresh drywall and freshly painted doors trimmed to replicate the look of a barn door, plus freshly cleaned and polished floors, raked seating atop a new platform and a new concessions bar.
But those aren’t the only changes at the community theater, at 3326 Everett Road in Bath Township. The theater has brought on two new people in two newly created leadership positions: Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski as artistic director and Brian Westerley as associate artistic director.
The new positions were created to bring in new ideas in fundraising, programming and education, all geared toward drawing new audiences, said Jack Steele, board treasurer.
“We need to move on and maybe consider a different [season] lineup,’’ said Steele, who said the theater’s three-show season has followed a comedy, musical, mystery formula for many years. “We need to attract new audiences.’’
The theater, whose average audience age is over 60, was founded as Bath Community Players in 1956. It previously operated at Old Town Hall in Bath and moved to the 1886 barn in 1966. The name was later changed to Western Reserve Playhouse to reflect its geographic location on the Bath-Richfield line.
Theater artists Sniadak-Yamokoski and Westerley, who started work at WRP May 1, are also board members. Westerley also has directed shows at the theater.
Steele said they will expand the theater’s education program as well as produce more current theatrical fare that will appeal to broader audiences.
“Lots of shows we do are period pieces, lots of old stuff. We don’t do a lot of new stuff,’’ he said.
They’ve inherited this summer’s 61st season, which begins Friday with It Runs in the Family, directed by Jim Volkert. Sniadak-Yamokoski will direct Forbidden Broadway, and Westerley will direct the season finale Scotland Road.
But this new artistic duo is already looking ahead to next summer, when they plan to present a regional premiere as part of an expanded season.
In the meantime, one of the new team’s first priorities is to raise $10,000 to install heat in the barn, which currently has only air conditioning. Reaching that goal would allow WRP to operate year-round instead of just in the summer. The goal is to produce four or five shows next year, including two musicals, two plays and a full youth production.
Sniadak-Yamokoski, a private voice and acting teacher as well as an actress and singer, has undergraduate and master’s degrees in voice from the University of Akron. The 40-year-old, who hails from Peninsula, previously ran her own murder mystery dinner theater and directs theater at Woodridge High School.
Westerley, 39, has a master’s degree in communications from UA. He lived and worked in both Los Angeles and New York before moving back to Northeast Ohio, where he is an active actor and director. He lives in Stow.
Sniadak-Yamokoski, who performed for years at Actors’ Summit in Akron, was saddened when that theater closed last summer. She set a goal of either working at a theater or opening her own theater within five years. Now, she sees nothing but potential at WRP, situated close to Interstate 77 in a spot that’s convenient for both audiences and artists to the north or south.
“I need a space where Akron and Cleveland can come together,’’ Sniadak-Yamokoski said.
And here’s Westerley’s goal for actors and directors at WRP: “We want them to have a home.”
They walked around like kids in a candy shop as they gave a tour of the three-story barn, whose 3,200-square foot ground floor houses the theater. Upper and lower floors with the same square footage house a massive costume and props collection, as well as a newly painted dressing room plus a workshop and furniture storage.
Sniadak-Yamokoski and Westerley plan to raise $10,000 for heating the old-fashioned way: By putting on shows. That includes a teen cabaret this summer as well as plans for a new works festival, a one-act play festival and other cabarets, including one with a gender-bender theme.
“We want people to know we’re here. We want them to know we’re moving in a different direction,” Sniadak-Yamokoski said.
In the short term, they also plan to expand the theater’s marketing efforts and expand the education program to include classes for adults. Theatergoers can also expect online ticket sales to be available for the first time when Forbidden Broadway opens July 21.
The artistic directors also want to get people mixing and mingling in their new theater format: They plan to do general rather than assigned seating to encourage guests to arrive at the theater early to socialize, enjoy concessions and get a good seat.
For information about subscriptions or single tickets to WRP’s current season, see western?reserveplayhouse.org or call 330-620-7314.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj or follow her on Twitter @KerryClawsonABJ .