YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Todd Hancock and Maureen Collins make a living in theater. The pair’s love for entertainment has become woven into Youngstown culture.
Hancock and Collins co-founded Easy Street Productions. The Broadway-style theater has entertained the Mahoning Valley for 31 years.
“We have been doing live theater, workshops, shows. Anything, really, that helps us do what we love most, which is entertaining,” Collins says.
Easy Street Productions has donated more than $1 million to nonprofit and community groups over the last 31 years. The troupe also has staged special shows to help local theaters.
Easy Street concluded its showing of “Miracle on Easy Street,” its annual Christmas show, and planned two performances for the spring – “Nunsense” and “Beauty and the Beast.” The COVID-19 shutdown forced Easy Street to cancel the shows.
Hancock says there must be an audience for a show, and he doesn’t know how the industry can reopen until social distancing guidelines are lifted.
Collins still runs workshops and streams them live from the studio. The virtual classes incorporate song lyrics, background tracks and choreography that students can download at home.
Running their small entertainment business has had a positive effect on Youngstown, Collins says. Locally run venues inspired a generation of performers to enter the field, she says.
“I notice now, when we look out into the community, how many little offshoots are on this very street, on Mahoning Avenue – three theatrical venues within walking distance of each other,” Collins says. “And these were all people that said, ‘You know what? I want to do this too.’ ”
Pictured: Easy Street Productions Founders Todd Hancock and Maureen Collins.