By Richard Heaton
Performers from the Community Playhouse of Northport (CPN) will bridge the gap between the newly established nonprofit and its predecessor, the recently shuttered Northport Community Theater (NCT), through music this weekend.
Before dissolving late last year, the NCT served the area for the better part of two decades, offering a wide array of live performances and summer programs. The CPN quickly rose from the ashes with the goal of continuing its legacy, and both the staff and calendar of events are a testament to that.
This inaugural performance, titled Traditions, is a Cabaret-style show that will feature songs from popular musicals previously performed at the NCT such as Les Miserables. More than 40 cast members will be in the show, including some who have been performing since NCT’s early days.
“I was cast in my first production 20 years ago when I was only f4 years old as the littlest orphan in Oliver,” said Dylan Perles, 24. “Few things in my life mean more to me than the CPN. I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming, brilliant, and talented group of people to introduce me to the theater world.”
Dylan and her younger siblings, Zoe and Kyra, will be performing together this weekend.
“My first show here was when I was 5 years old,” said Kyra, 17. “I auditioned on a whim in my quest to be just like my older sisters.”
CPN Board President Suzie Lustig and Artistic Director Jim Redding, long-standing members from NCT, were at the helm of resurrecting the community theater in Northport. The two, among others, worked tirelessly for nine months to ensure a smooth transition and guarantee that NCT’s community-driven and family-friendly atmosphere would carry on for years to come.
“We jumped in full throttle because of our love and passion for performing,” Lustig said. “We have all learned a lot, and there are no regrets because we know the ultimate reward when we birth our theater this weekend, when we represent the different musicals that were on NCT’s stage over the last 20 years.”
While doing its part to stick to its roots, CPN also strives to be different from NCT in a few key ways – first, by making their performances and programs more accessible to the community. According to Lustig, CPN’s status as a nonprofit and new fundraising efforts through Traditions are the first steps in realizing this.
Another key difference is the members’ determination to craft new programs, including one known as The Bucket List, a summer program for more mature performers who are 40 years old and over. The program will give participants the chance to perform in roles that are generally portrayed by a younger age group.
The Bucket List will be performed multiple times during the first week of August, and the CPN will be hosting auditions next week. The hope is that it will be the first of many new programs that will bring new and returning faces to the theater.
“These performances and programs mean a lot to all the different people who have been on our stage as well as all the people who will come to see the shows,” Redding said. “We are continuing, we are moving on, and our upcoming programs are a testament of that.”
One thing is for certain: Had the CPN not come into existence following the retirement of NCT founder Bette Silver and NCT’s subsequent dissolving, there would have been a hole left in the community.
“There are not many activities today that allow children to participate alongside their grandparents and community members of all ages,” said Stacey Rees, who has three children performing this weekend and whose mother, Judy Avena, was one of NCT’s first performers. “It is what makes this theater group so special.”