News Column

Community theater

August 3, 2014

By Tom Lavis, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

Aug. 03--JOHNSTOWN -- Johnstown's newest theatrical group, The Stone Bridge Players, may be best described as a loosely organized troupe.

However, with the support of people such as Rodney Eatman, longtime director and retired professor of drama at Pitt-Johnstown, and producer David Ward, a fledgling cast of actors has a solid foundation on which to build.

Stone Bridge Players will present its initial production of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" from Aug. 19-23 at the Johnstown Flood Museum, 304 Washington St., downtown Johnstown.

"I called upon known actors and some former Pitt students to approach this project," Eatman said.

"I needed six specific characters to be part of this zany offering from Christopher Durang."

When Eatman first saw "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" on Broadway in 2012, he knew it was a challenge he would someday want to tackle.

"The Broadway cast included David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver in the lead roles," he said.

In 2013, it won the Tony Award for Best Play, and David Hyde Pierce was nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play.

"It's a pleasure to produce it in Johnstown," Eatman said.

"Audiences are inevitably captivated by the sheer surprise inherent in Durang's work."

The comedy follows the story of three siblings, Vanya, Sonia and Masha.

Vanya and Sonia have never left the confines of their childhood home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, while their sister, Masha, has been gallivanting around the world as a successful actress.

A surprise visit from Masha and her 20-something boy toy, Spike, throws the normally quiet household into utter upheaval as its residents and visitors are swept up in an intoxicating mixture of lust, rivalry, regret, and the sudden possibility of escape.

"This one turns corners abruptly and collides with love, art and family, including a generous dollop of sibling rivalry," Eatman said.

"Durang cooks with laughing gas to concoct six charming characters."

The cast includes Jayme Brooks as Sonia, Jacob St. Clair as Vanya, Tamara Gindlesperger Fisher as Masha and Blake Leipchack as Spike.

Also featured are Lauren Wahl and Stacie Marie.

Some of the show's elements were derived from the works of Anton Chekhov, including several of the characters' names, the play's setting in a cherry orchard, and the theme of the possible loss of an ancestral home.

"It may be a humorous adaptation of Chekhov themes, but that doesn't require familiarity with Chekhov," Eatman said.

Eatman also credits Ward for helping launch this production.

"He also was at Pitt even longer than I was, and he is very interested in community theater," Eatman said.

Eatman's biggest challenge is working with the time constraints of cast members. He fully realizes each cast member has a life and responsibilities, but they are finding time to make the play a reality.

"We are all working for love of theater," Eatman said.

"Ideally, we would like to be together three times a week for rehearsals, but in reality, that's not always possible. So, I work individually with the actors when necessary."

Eatman, who directed 91 plays at Pitt-Johnstown, finds comedy a challenge.

"Comedy is harder than drama," Eatman said.

"I love musical theater and have done 50 of them, but comedy requires people to listen intently to get every word."

He also said that the actors must be at the top of their games for each performance because they are required to give the illusion that "this is the first time these things have happened."

"At any moment, something could go wrong, but that's part of the beauty of live theater," he said.

Tickets are $15, plus handling fees.

Advance tickets may be purchased through ShowClix at and at the Heritage Discovery Center at 539-1889. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

JAHA is seeking sponsors for the play.

To inquire, contact Melody Tisinger at JAHA, 539-1889.

Proceeds benefit the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.


What: "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike."

Where: Johnstown Flood Museum, 304 Washington St., downtown Johnstown.

When: 7:30 p.m.Aug. 19-23.

Tickets: $15, at the door, online at, or

Information: 539-1889.


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Source: Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, PA)

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