“Why does September seem sunny as spring?” asks one version of the classic Hollywood song, “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Stosh Snyder, whose favorite musical of all time is “Singin’ in the Rain,” likely has the answer. The new executive director of Theatre Harrisburg says the future is bright indeed for the community theatre’s 2018-19 season—launching this month—as well as his own professional career.
Snyder, 43, says Harrisburg is one of the most vibrant—and oldest—theater communities in the country. A native son, he’s been performing since the age of 7. He even took classes at Theatre Harrisburg as a child. Twenty-five years ago, he played the role of Cosmo Brown at Central Dauphin High School’s “Singin’ in the Rain” production.
After earning his musical education degree at Shenandoah University, he stayed in Virginia as a music teacher for a few years. When he returned to Harrisburg, his career took a new, business-oriented direction as he worked in sales, then in the insurance industry. He stayed involved in the local theater scene, also appearing in independent films and commercials. Then, as he said, “My dream job opened up.”
After about a year in the position, then-Executive Director Allison Hays resigned in April. Snyder was one of about 15 applicants who threw his hat into the ring.
“I was very impressed with Stosh,” said Jay Krevsky, the theater’s long-time board member who served on the search committee. “The committee’s choice was unanimous.”
Sndyer said that he brings a unique perspective—including business acumen—to the position, which he began in mid-May.
“I’ve been involved in Theatre Harrisburg for almost two decades,” he said. “I’ve lived the life of the volunteer, of the actor, of the patron. So, I think I have a good understanding [of the organization]. We’re not a professional theater, but we want to operate like one.”
When I spoke with Snyder, he was in full motion preparing for his first season as executive director.
The 2018-19 season launches this month with “Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” and continues with “Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical” in November. Other highlights throughout the season include “Oh Joy, Oh Rapture,” “Doubt,” “Avenue Q” and “Sylvia.”
“When I say there’s something for everybody in our season, it couldn’t be truer,” said Snyder.
“Newsies,” he said, is a fun, family-friendly show, while “Avenue Q” is “basically ‘Sesame Street’ for adults.” “Baskerville,” he said, will show off the “incredible talent of some of our actors.”
“We have shows that will make you laugh, shows that will make you cry, but you’re going to leave feeling fully entertained,” he said.
Snyder credits his predecessor for choosing a great lineup.
“Alison did a wonderful job here and picked a great season,” he said. “Financially, the theater is doing great, and she has a lot to do with that.”
Snyder is also quick to thank Theatre Harrisburg’s army of volunteers.
He estimates as many as 200 volunteers do everything from stitching costumes to pounding nails on the set. Including his job, the theater has five paid positions; volunteers fill all other gaps. He welcomes anyone interested in becoming a volunteer to contact Theatre Harrisburg and “find your niche.”
In terms of goals, Snyder said that he has three.
“Goal number one, even though it’s a cliché, is to put the community back in theater,” he said. “I want to offer an educational platform for our volunteers to find success in producing a production. I also want to help put more people in the seats and entertain our community. And I want to offer programs for kids. Our mission and theater was built on education.”
Snyder said that a children’s holiday show will be added to the lineup in December. And he would like to launch a kids’ summer theater program.
“Theaters sometimes go dark in the summer,” he said. “But my feeling is, a theater should never go dark unless it’s a blackout and a scene change.”
Snyder is complimentary towards fellow theater and arts organizations throughout the greater Harrisburg area. He said that he views other theater groups as a community and not as competition, because the end result is “extraordinary talent,” thanks to actors honing their craft.
What is it about theater that gets in your blood, whether you’re a performer or a theater aficionado? Snyder said that the answer is an emotional one.
“First, I get a joy out of watching people laugh and be entertained,” he said. “People who come to watch a show—we’re helping them escape their everyday lives and reality for a 120 minutes.”
Then there’s the ability to pull emotion out of people.
“That’s where the buzz comes from,” he said. “There’s nothing like live theater. There are no two shows exactly alike. When you see the audience’s appreciation, you can see it in their eyes.”
Theatre Harrisburg is located at 513 Hurlock St., Harrisburg. They also perform many shows at Whitaker Center. For more information on the theater or its upcoming season, call 717-232-5501 or see theatreharrisburg.com.