PARKERSBURG - For decades, the Actors Guild of Parkersburg has brought a variety of shows to its stage, comedy, drama, musicals, new and old.
While the classics like "South Pacific" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" will always have a place on the Guild stage, the Guild's members also have an interest in bringing newer hits and classics to draw in younger audiences.
Since 2010, that has included productions of "Rent," "The Rocky Horror Show," the recently completed "The Full Monty" and the season finale, "Avenue Q," now playing.
The Parkersburg Actors Guild presented “The Rocky Horror Show” in October 2011 as part of its recent trend to expand its range of productions, from family-oriented fare to edgier, more mature shows. (File Photo)
"It's been quite successful," said Barbara Full, a long-time Guild member, who began the trend in 2010 as director of "Rent."
The musical - with mature themes like sexuality, drug use and AIDS - had been popular for years on Broadway and around the world. Full said the Guild had been interested for years in bringing newer and edgier works to the Guild stage as a way of bringing in younger audiences, in addition to those who like the more traditional productions.
For the Guild, there was always a little concern about going in a new direction because they are there for the audience, Full said. If the audience doesn't follow, then it is a move in the wrong direction.
Over the past three years, Full believes the changes have been positive for the Guild. There have been some who disagree with some of the Guild's choices, but audience response has been positive and the Guild continues to provide a variety of shows for all tastes, she said.
All of the Guild's shows have continued to sell well, including the mature shows. Each has seen good attendance, including two or three sell-out nights per production, Full said. She served as music director on "The Full Monty" and is directing "Avenue Q," which incorporates actors and puppets but discusses mature issues and themes.
Full expects the trend to continue in the future. While the current season has two mature shows with "The Full Monty" and "Avenue Q," the upcoming 2013-2014 season will not include mature-themed shows. However, she expects more in the future based on audience interest and what the guild members want to try.
The guild has already chosen its 2013-2014 slate of productions. Those will include "Dracula" (October); "White Christmas" (November-December); "Lombardi" (January-February); "Annie Jr." (Guild Builders) (March); "Shrek" (April-May); "Grandest Canyon" (June); and "9-to-5" (July-August).
Becky Mathis-Stump, the current president of the guild, said by offering shows that are more modern and have some name recognition, the guild is hoping to bring in new audiences and younger audiences. The group wants to build a consistent base of people who come to the guild on a regular basis, she said.
The guild received lot of positive feedback on "The Full Monty" show, which has strong emotional content involving relationships between people and within families.
"We try to put on things of substance and there is a lot of substance in that show," Mathis-Stump said about the show.
The guild will continue to balance the slate between family friendly and more cutting edge offerings. Each year's schedule of shows is developed from suggestions from guild members, friends, patrons and audience members. The changes in the past couple of years reflect that range of interest, she said.
"There's always going to be a balance to what we do," Mathis-Stump said.
Gary McIntyre, the guild's vice president of administration, said ticket sales for the show seem to indicate there is interest in the newer offerings. Ticket sales were up for the three mature shows, with nearly 100 percent sold, compared to 70 percent on average for the guild's general run of musicals.
"We were at near capacity for each show for all three of the musicals," he said. "Almost every performance of 'The Full Monty' was sold out."