Thursday, March 24, 2011
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
A new theater company has taken up residence at Main Street Theater.
Crown Theater Productions is promising not only a full slate of live theater but also lifestyle seminars and hobby classes.
Its first theatrical effort will be “The Aristocats Kids,” which will open in May. The rest of the schedule has yet to be finalized.
Crown is a Bible-based group, but is not evangelistic, said Len Derico, executive director. Derico, a minister at Northeast Christian Church in Warren, and Don Arthurs, owner of Main Street Theater, are the founders. They are joined on the Crown board of directors by Mark Pleggee, Carla Sudosc and Jim Couchenour.
All events will be family-friendly, said Derico, who lives in Columbiana.
Main Street opened in 2008 in the former Columbiana Cinema movie theater, on the Circle in downtown Columbiana. Arthurs had bought the then-closed theater in 2007 and gave it a million-dollar renovation.
At first, Arthurs used the 440-seat auditorium for first-run and specialty movies, theater and comedy productions and musical concerts. The theater closed last year, and Arthurs temporarily put it on the market. Arthurs was one of the founders of Turning Technologies in Youngstown and teaches theology at Heartland Christian Academy. His theater also is available for rentals on days Crown Theater has nothing scheduled.
Crown maintains an office in the building under a lease agreement, said Derico, who noted that a sign will be erected over the adjacent Encore Cafe, which is part of Main Street Theater.
Derico’s acting background includes several plays at Salem Community Theatre, most notably as the Rev. Oglethorpe in the “Sanders Family Christmas” trilogy. He also has written plays for church groups and will make his directorial debut with “Aristocats.”
Guest directors will be brought in for future productions, he said, which will include fare such as “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Tom Sawyer.”
“Our desire is to fill the calendar up with events,” said Derico.
The idea for Crown Theater actually goes back several years. Derico and Arthurs had long known each other through First Christian Church, where Derico was minister until recently. “[Arthurs and I] had first talked about a drama ministry at the Columbiana Cinema [in 2006],” said Derico.
“Then last summer, my wife and I were taking a walk, and we came past the ‘for sale’ sign on the theater,” he continued. “We began to pray about [starting a drama ministry]. I gave Don [Arthurs] a call to see if he would consider it. And Jim Couchenour called Don about it the same weekend. We saw that as an indicator that this was a very good thing.”
Couchenour, who operates Cogun Industries, is also a musician and actor.
The goal of Crown Theater is to “entertain, equip and engage” people, said Derico. A series of workshops dubbed “life apps” are being scheduled, with topics ranging from marriage to finances to parenting. Classes in subjects such as cooking and pottery, taught by instructors from the Boardman YMCA, also are planned, as well as a summer theater camp for youths.
“The Aristocats Kids” will open May 13 and run for two weekends for a total of six performances.