By DAVID L. PODOS
ILION – Nestled behind the Remington Arms building on Remington Avenue, in what was once a horse stable, sits the Ilion Little Theater. It is one of the oldest continuous running community theaters in America, and offers audiences a wide range of entertainment from comedy to musicals to drama and original shows.
The Ilion Little Theater Club was founded by Ilion resident Lucille Worden in 1924. It began as Worden and her friends who were interested in acting performing plays in the attic of her home. In 1928 the stables behind Remington Arms became available, and Worden and her friends moved the theater there.
Like many businesses, the theater was hit hard when COVID-19 appeared on the scene back in March of 2020. While the theater is still temporarily closed, new guidelines regarding COVID-19 and the easing of social restrictions are starting to slowly breath new life back into many businesses giving the theater group hope that things are returning to normal, said Char Lyon, long time actor and current vice president of the theater’s board of directors.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown, restrictions and social distancing have hurt the organization both financially and emotionally, Lyon said.
“The theater and the arts are so important whether you’re an observer or a participant,” she said. “Research shows that in either capacity it improves your emotional well-being. Yes, it has been a loss financially but not being able to put on shows tugs at your heart.”
Lyon caught the “bug” for acting by accident, thanks to her daughter.
“It’s actually a funny story,” Lyon said. “My daughter Tori saw an ad in the Observer Dispatch for auditions for a play called ‘Caught in the Net.’ I had to take my daughter down to the theater for the audition, as she was too young to drive at the time. When we got there the director asked if I would read and I said I was not there to audition, but my daughter was. He said that was OK, that he just wanted me to read for a part because they didn’t have enough people at that time to do all the readings. So I said sure. Two days later the director called me and offered Tori a part in the play and said, ‘by the way, I want you to play the role of her mother.’ That was in 2005. I caught the acting bug then and haven’t left since.”
In normal situations the theater group puts on four plays throughout the year, with the season opener being after Labor day. But there is still some uncertainty surrounding opening season this year as the theater waits to hear from authorities regarding live audiences.
“When we had to close we were in rehearsal for ‘Jeeves at Sea,’ of which I happen to be the Director,” Lyon lamented. “We were literally two weeks away from opening night when we had to shut down. I still believe we have a full cast waiting to go. The set is completed except for some minor painting. We are just waiting to hear how many people will be allowed into the theater.”
The certified capacity for The Stables is 94 people.
For those curious about auditioning for a play, Lyon said the process is easy, but stressed that there is a serious commitment involved.
“We post all auditions on our website, send e-mail notices to all our members, as well as past performers, and post the auditions on Instagram and Facebook,” she said. “Press releases are sent to the local media for additional coverage. Auditions are held for two nights at the theater, usually in the evening. If the Director calls back and offers the role, he or she will tell you when the rehearsals will begin. The time line from the beginning of rehearsal to opening night is typically six to eight weeks. Then there’s two weeks of performances so you’re talking eight to 10 weeks in total.”
Anyone interested in auditioning for up-coming shows, attending a show, helping out the theater in other ways can contact the group through their website: www.Ilionlittletheatre.org