It seems so fitting.
It seems fitting that the final play for Open Stage founders Don and Anne Alsedek is one featuring a close-knit family, Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness.”
“Ah, Wilderness” is a story about the Miller family as they celebrate the 4th of July while coping with the usual drama of teens in love, family values and political differences. While set in the early 1900s, the themes of the show are timeless.
Though a comedy, “Ah, Wilderness” has actually been a bittersweet experience for several of the actors who have worked over the years with the Alsedeks, who are retiring after the conclusion this month of the theater’s 31st season.
“I’ve been walking around in rehearsals thinking, ‘This is the last time’,” said Lisa Haywood, who portrays Lily Miller. “I wouldn’t even be in theater if it weren’t for Don and Anne. They encouraged me and helped me to grow as an actor. There are a lot of really special connections here.”
Haywood has been in numerous shows at Open Stage, with Don directing nearly every one of those productions.
Brian Schreffler, who portrays Miller family patriarch Nat and who has been featured in “Anne Frank” for eight years, agreed with Haywood.
“I’m certainly going to miss both of them,” said Schreffler. “They have been near and dear friends for 40-some years.”
Another Open Stage veteran featured in “Ah, Wilderness” is Dan Burke, who was in one of the first Open Stage productions, “And a Nightingale Sang.” Burke plays Sid Davis.
“I love working with Don because he gives the actor freedom to explore in every rehearsal,” said Burke. “Don gives the actor respect. He gives you the opportunity to play, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Burke, who also directs and provides fight choreography for several local theaters, said that Don’s style has impacted how he now directs.
Dave Olmstead, scenic designer for “Ah, Wilderness,” is another local director whose directorial style has changed from working with Don.
“I would say Don’s style of directing has greatly influenced the way that I now direct,” he said. “It’s more hands off, trusting the actor and guiding their natural instincts.”
Olmstead has acted in multiple shows directed by Don and has starred across from Anne in a variety of roles.
“The Alsedeks had this idea of professionally producing plays in this area that wouldn’t normally be done,” Olmstead said. “They’re often the Pennsylvania premier for a lot of these shows. I applaud Don, Anne and Open Stage co-founder Marianne Fischer, to not only create this vision but to maintain it for so many years.”
Stuart Landon, current associate artistic director, will step into the position of artistic director on July 1.
“I think Stuart Landon is going to do a remarkable job,” said Schreffler. “I’m sure Stuart will respect the tradition that Don and Anne have built. I’m definitely looking forward to Open Stage’s future.”
Returning for this production is former Open Stage resident costume designer, Gwen Alsedek. Gwen, Don’s sister, retired in 2015.
“It’s nice that Gwen and I get to go out together,” said Don. “It’s also great to work on my final show as artistic director with actors who have been with Open Stage for a long time.”
The cast of “Ah, Wilderness” also features Emily Gray, Patrick Stoner, Michael Hardenburg, Sheridan Lain, Jack Hoover, Jim Lewis, Erin Shellenberger, Lucas Haywood, Madison McCann, Caroline Chronister and Aaron Bomar.
“Ah, Wilderness” runs June 2 to 25 at Open Stage of Harrisburg. Tickets and information on show times are available at www.openstagehbg.com.
Upcoming Theater Events At Open Stage of Harrisburg
A classic romance by Eugene O’Neill
June 2 to 25
Auditions for Music Theatre Workshop
Saturday, June 10 by appointment
July 10 to 28 theater camp for students ages 12 to 18
Disney’s “Aladdin Kids”
June 29 & 30, 7 p.m.
Subscriptions on Sale for Season 32 for package of plays 2017 to 2018
Author: Laura Dugan