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People share tales of love for theater

Here is the final installment of local theater veterans sharing their stories about the shows and experiences that made them fall in love with live theater:

J.E. Ballantyne Jr.

of Austintown

I vividly remember my parents taking my sister and me to first-run movies in Pittsburgh. I remember at a very young age seeing “Quo Vadis,” “Singin’ In the Rain” and “An American In Paris” at one of those lavish first-run theaters in Pittsburgh.

I was absolutely mesmerized with what I was seeing, and I didn’t really understand what movies were at that time. I could see them, but could they see us??

Then I saw the film version of “West Side Story.” I saw it 10 times. I loved it. I knew every line and every lyric to every song.

Then I got involved in theater in junior high school and high school — I was hooked for life!

I attended Mount Lebanon High School, which had the best theater department in Pennsylvania. My drama teacher at Mount Lebanon told us that once we get involved in theater we will never get out. That may not have been true for everybody, but it sure was for me.

I don’t regret one second I have spent in this business. It has defined my life and I am still going strong.

Donald Connors

of Hubbard

I have always loved being on stage and entertaining people. It is my passion. Ever since my kindergarten graduation ceremony and our parents applauded our first group song, it’s been in my blood.

I did two shows in grade school. These were generic, public-domain kiddie shows in which every kid in the school was cast and just about everyone got a little bit of dialogue, whether they wanted it or not. But it was still fun, and I loved being on stage.

I didn’t get involved with theater (again) until I was a junior in high school, and I really regret not getting involved sooner.

I decided to pursue theater in college, hoping to be an actor. Unfortunately, a stage combat accident in March 2008 limited my potential as on-stage talent.

It was around this time that I became very interested in tech work, especially lighting. I am now primarily a lighting designer and I love it just as much as being on stage (though I do still occasionally act in shows).

To me theater is the best source of camaraderie, a welcome distraction from everyday life. Most of all, that amazing sense of accomplishment I feel when I’ve entertained an audience, either by acting or even simply pressing a button on a lightboard, is a feeling I live for.

Fran Hurayt

of Austintown

This is a different perspective on theater: back stage. Several years ago, I was asked to do some sewing on costumes for the production of “Cats” at Powers Auditorium and work the show as well.

Besides sewing, part of the job was emptying crates and large costume containers on wheels, doing laundry, preparing the actors’ dressing rooms with things they would need for the performance, repairing costumes, and setting up props and costumes for the performance.

Some costumes were so heavy beyond belief that I wondered how they could perform so effortlessly wearing these beautifully crafted outfits.

During the show, I assisted in getting them ready to go from the wings onto the stage. At the end of the show, after helping them get out of their sweaty costumes, the damp areas of each costume were sprayed with vodka and put back into the gondolas and crates. Soiled clothing was placed into laundry bags and sent off to the next venue.

“Cats” led to many more. I started at Powers Auditorium, then Stambaugh Auditorium, Packard Music Hall and, lastly, the Covelli Centre for almost 20 years. Meeting and assisting people like Kenny Rogers, Paul Anka, Elton John, Barry Manilow and so many more was exciting beyond belief. Having this opportunity to work at local venues and meeting great people makes me a sincerely blessed person and gave me many fond memories of the theater.

Quinn Morlock

of Columbus and

formerly of Boardman

I started going to the Youngstown Playhouse to see plays when I was 4 years old. I always dreamed of being part of the cast.

When I turned 10, I auditioned for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and got the opportunity to play a dwarf.

My last show at The Youngstown Playhouse was “Little Shop of Horrors.” I was Audrey and my dad, Wayne Morlock, was Mr. Musnick, it was the best experience.

The playhouse is a magical place, where many people grow and learned how to handle life. Our small connection is what makes us who we are.

Maureen Gorman

Stenglein

of Youngstown

I guess I’m what you could call a theater veteran. I’m 45 now. I started doing theater in seventh grade.

I was cast in our school musical and I was HOOKED. I started auditioning for things more in high school, participating in productions at Ursuline.

After graduation, I went to YSU as a theater major and a voice minor. My love was always the musical. I also did community theatre at the Playhouse, Oakland Center for the Arts, Kent State University at Trumbull Summer Stock — anywhere I could go.

I think I was in my mid 20s when I slowed down. I had met my husband and we began our adventure together.

Just this past fall, I was lured back by the Hopewell with their production of “Evita.” It was my third time playing the role of Eva Peron. Theater is much more difficult when you’re older and working 40 hours a week, raising kids, etc. But it ignited that love in me all over again.

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