Porthouse Theatre

Bethany Early

First show of season opens; theater offers entertainment for community

Actress Emily Leonard leads a musical sequence as Ruby in the Kent State Porthouse Theatre production of “Dames at Sea.” DAVID RANUCCI | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

      The opening of Porthouse Theatre’s 2006 Superstar season provides not only the opportunity for an evening of entertainment, but for patrons to contribute to the community at the same time.

The season began Thursday with a preview performance of “Dames at Sea.” Artistic Director Terri Kent announced at the preview that a portion of ticket sales from the theater’s upcoming production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” will be donated to the King Kennedy Community Center. Porthouse will also donate 10 percent of its seasonal concession sales.


What’s playing this summer at

Porhouse Theatre:

• Dames at Sea

Thursday to July 1

• Our Town

July 6 to 22

• Jesus Christ Superstar

July 27 to Aug. 13

All shows begin at 8 p.m.

Tuesday through Saturday

Sunday Shows begin at 2 p.m.

“Dames at Sea,” which runs through July 1, is a musical comedy set in the 1930s that parodies classic works such as “42nd Street.” The play tells the story of Ruby, a naive, small-town girl coming to Broadway.

The summer theater is a 500-seat outdoor, covered pavilion on the grounds of Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls. It features three shows each season. Porthouse is a cultural service of Kent State, serving as the professional theater component of the Kent/Blossom arts festival programs.

Eric van Baars, the play’s director and assistant artistic director of Porthouse, said “Dames at Sea” is a good play to kick off the season. The show is an old-fashioned homage to the time’s backstage musicals, he said. He said the play is meant to be tongue-in-cheek funny, so he wanted to make it as clever as possible while still keeping it “real.”

“The greatest challenge was in not going overboard,” van Baars said.

The cast of “Dames at Sea” includes MaryAnn Black (Mona Kent), Emily Leonard (Ruby), Jodi Beck (Joan), Geoff Stephenson (Hennessey/Captain), Erik Floor (Lucky), Alex Jorth (Dick) and an ensemble.

“I’m very proud of the cast. It’s one of the strongest all-around I’ve worked with. Everyone brought something to the table,” said van Baars, who also worked on the show’s choreography with Sean T. Morrissey of Millikin University.

Production stage manager Michele L. Burger said Thursday’s preview show went well.

“It’s a family show with everything you could possibly want,” she said.

A group of 15 children from King Kennedy Community Center was present at last Thursday’s show and will attend each of the three shows, said Constance Dubick, vice president of the King Kennedy Community Center advisory board.

The partnership between Porthouse and the community center began last season. King Kennedy is a multipurpose center created by Kent State students in 1978 to meet the needs of the underprivileged in Portage County, and remains one of the largest social service projects ever formed by students, according to information provided by Porthouse Theatre.

“Terri believes actors have a social responsibility,” Dubick said. “She has such a wonderful view of the impact theater can make. She’s been very committed in community building and assisting those in need.”

She also said it’s been a dream of the group to build a gymnasium at the center since it opened. Last year, Porthouse presented the center with a check for about $4,500 to go toward the building’s expansion.

Each season’s plays are selected by a Porthouse executive board based on patron suggestions, available royalties and plays done in years past, van Baars said.

Other plays this season include “Our Town,” which runs July 6 to 22, and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which runs July 27 to Aug. 13. Curtain times for all three shows are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, with “Jesus Christ Superstar” closing at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13.

Contact Blossom Arts and Porthouse reporter Bethany Early at [email protected].