Curtain Goes Up this Weekend on New Theater in Sharon

SHARON, Pa. – After more than two years of planning, fundraising and renovations, Area Community Theatre of Sharpsville (Acts) will open its new building this weekend.

City, county and state officials, as well as theater supporters and volunteers, filled the theater Tuesday afternoon to mark the occasion and tour the building.

Acts’ new home is the former Sacred Heart Catholic church at the corner of Irvine and State streets, downtown. The theater company was founded in 2011, presenting shows in the Sharpsville Opera House and other venues.

“Words cannot explain how pleased we are to give this to the community,” said Tom Perman, Acts president.

The theater company leased the building for 18 months until purchasing it for $250,000 in the spring of 2021 from the Diocese of Erie. The diocese had earlier decommissioned the church and removed all religious items and the stained glass windows, which it replaced with clear glass.

The renovation work was completed for “a little less than half a million dollars,” Perman said, in addition to the purchase price.

The new home of Area Community Theatre of Sharpsville. The spacious auditorium in the former Sacred Heart Church in Sharon, Pa., was unveiled Tuesday afternoon in a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by officials, patrons, supporters and volunteers. Delivering remarks were Bob Fiscus, Sharon city manager; Matt McConnell, Mercer County commissioner; state Rep. Mark Longietti; David Grande, Sharon Chamber of Commerce board chair; Paul O’Brien of Rien Construction; and Diane Helbig of state Sen. Michele Brooks’ office.

The money was raised from grants from the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio, as well as the city of Sharon, Mercer County and the state of Pennsylvania; and private donations, said Susan Piccirilli, vice president of Acts.

The main auditorium is in what used to be the church sanctuary. It is set up for a capacity of 250, with portable seats, although the legal occupancy can be increased to almost 400, according to Piccirilli.

The renovation converted the space behind the altar into a backstage lounge and waiting area, as well as dressing rooms and a costume-making area.

The stage was extended forward and finished with curtains, soundproofing material along the walls, and overhead lights.

The walls were painted and soundproofed, with portions of the pews used to construct a decorative ramp to the stage and part of the proscenium.

The choir loft has been retrofitted with spotlights and the sound board, and a permanent lighting rig has been erected across the ceiling.

The exterior of the new Acts Theater in downtown Sharon, Pa.

“It’s so nice to have been able to repurpose parts of the church,” Piccirilli said. “We’re hoping people walk in and feel a sense of home because there are pieces that were here when they were parishioners.”

The landmark stone church was built in the 1900s, Perman said.

A rental space and a cabaret area, dubbed 40 Below, opened in the church basement in June of 2021.

The first performance in the new theater will be a special grand opening revue of scenes from every musical Acts has staged since its founding. Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, and Saturday, Oct. 22; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students); go to actsharpsville.org or call 724 815 4388.

In most cases, the actors who played the key roles in the original Acts production came back to reprise the role for the grand opening revue.

“When we sat down nine months ago to write this show, we wanted to give back to the group that was with us all the way through,” Perman said. “We picked out the popular numbers [from each show] that would work best to keep the show upbeat and moving, and then went to the individuals [who played the roles] and asked if they would participate. We had pretty good success. Only one or two could not do it.”

Piccirilli said Acts has not performed a show in two years and the actors were happy to be together again.

“The energy of being in a new and bigger space is palpable, for both the actors who are new to us and those who were in our first production, ‘The Pirates of Penzance,’ back in 2011.”

The opening revue will feature a cast of 30, plus a choreographer, music director and a seven-piece orchestra.

The season will also include a production of “Carousel,” the famed music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, March 24-26 and March 31-April 2; and the romantic comedy “Bus Stop,” May 19-21 and 26-28.

The Forty Below cabaret will be the location for “Hometown Christmas Classics,” an evening or cookies, carols and cocktails with holiday music from the 1940s and 1950s, Dec.16-18; and “Rhapsody in Gershwin,” an original production developed by show director Ron Sinesio of songs from George and Ira Gershwin’s Broadway and Hollywood careers.

Pictured at top: Tom Perman and Susan Piccirilli, president and vice president of Area Community Theatre of Sharpsville.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.