Aileen McCulloch, Executive Director of the Vagabond Acting Troupe, a multiple Barrymore Award nominated company for their work in Philadelphia, announced they were just named number two on the Philadelphia Hot List for Children’s Entertainment due to their theatrical work with regional children. This comes after the company placed fourth in 2011 on the same list of the Vagabond Acting Troupe.
Those who make the long drive into Reading or Philadelphia for a theatrical production or comedy show might be surprised to find out that the Tri-County Area has a theater gem in the middle of rural orchards offering the same types of shows and a huge list of theater education opportunities.
Featured earlier this fall in the Huffington Post as a non-profit doing amazing work with youth, and on the Greatnonprofits.org website as a featured five start non-profit, the company has made a mark not only with their cutting edge experimental work in the city, but for their ongoing mission to provide theatrical education to children in Chester, Berks and Lancaster County. All of that takes place just up at the corner of Route 82 and Fairview Road in Honey Brook.
McCulloch said, “We will be celebrating our twentieth anniversary in January, our company is dedicated to sharing culture and arts with the Southeastern corner of Pennsylvania. Our work has garnered numerous awards, financial support from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the company was recently interviewed for a featured spot on CCPTV’s new theater arts program.”
The resume reads like one of a Philadelphia based company, and that is what Vagabond Acting Troupe was for almost fifteen years, before picking up and moving operations back home to the Morgantown/Glenmoore area where founders live.
“We wanted to bring all that we’d learned back to our hometown,” says founding director Aileen McCulloch, who began as Artistic Director when the company was founded, then moved into the Executive Director role when co-founder Ty Furman moved into a management position elsewhere. Jeff Bedieman of Glenmoore is a founding member of the company who still music directs most of the company’s teen and adult productions.
“I was driving an hour into the city to work with kids and create original theater, and when I looked around at home there wasn’t much available here.”
So McCulloch packed the Vagabond bags and brought the sets, the costumes, the books and all that goes with it, back to Morgantown.
McCulloch, who holds her MA in theater from Villanova University, her BA in theater from Mary Washington University, and has studied with Delle Arte in California, says the best learning she has had over the years came from actually doing shows.
“We wanted kids in our area to have access to lots and lots of auditions.”
Since that decision just eight years ago, the company has presented over thirty productions with and for youth. The range of shows has included Shakespeare, musicals, original movement works, and scripts written by and for the students.
Almost three years ago, the company took up residence at their current building at 1080 North Manor Road in Honey Brook. They partnered with the dance company Mixturez, called the building the Corner Arts Center, and started on the path of doing up to fourteen shows a year since. With support of organizations like The Chester County Solid Waste Authority, Prudential Realty, Foxcroft Equipment Corp., BNY Mellon and the never ending support of the Burkholders and Twin Valley Coffee, the company is quickly becoming the go-to place for children’s entertainment in the region.
“We moved into the new space with just a three year lease, so we are in the middle of negotiations to stay in the building,” says McCulloch, noting that the company hopes to stay at their present location until they purchase a building to be their final home.
“Our hope is to make our home here permanently, and the five year plan includes finding a space commensurate with the one we are currently renting,” notes McCulloch, who invites residents to contact the company if they have ideas on where that final home can be or are interested in sponsoring the new home.
Until that move is made, the company hopes to keep up their effort of running numerous programs at once in their current home, while regularly hosting guests. In addition the Vagabonds donate time to run the after-school drama club at the Twin Valley Middle School, and bring low-cost touring works to the area Elementary schools.
McCulloch continued, “Upcoming guests include the Dutch Blitzkrieg Comedy Team and the Forty Niners Show Choir. This winter the company will also be providing a touring production of Paul Bunyan’s American Tall Tales to local elementary schools, featuring teen actors from their critically acclaimed Jr. Professional program.”
Schools interested in hosting the show can contact the troupe to schedule a performance.
Just since July, the company has presented three original children’s works in their summer program, the musical Thumbelina at the Twin Valley Middle School with over 50 area youth participating, a teen Jr. Professional production of Romeo and Juliet, a musical production of The Little Mermaid Jr. with over thirty participants, and their current collaborative dance/theater world premiere production of The Snow Queen.
Upcoming winter programs include:
December 4 at 7:30 p.m. - The Forty Niners preview their annual holiday show, MY BIG FAT NORTH POLE WEDDING on the Vagabond Acting Troupe Stage. Tickets are free, although donations will be requested at the door.
December 8 at noon and December 9 at 2 p.m. - The company presents dance collaboration with current building dance studio partner, Re-Mix Dance. The Saturday show is preceded by a holiday performance by Vagabond Acting Troupe’s show choir, the Showstoppers, from about 11:30 until the SNOW QUEEN starts at noon. Audience members are encouraged to arrive early so they can see both performances. Tickets for THE SNOW QUEEN are available online.
January 12 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. - Flap Jack Pancake Breakfast at Applebees in Thorndale. Tickets can be purchased online via the company’s website and proceeds from the event help to support the Teen production of High School Musical. Three hundred seats are available for the breakfast and community support is welcome.
February 1 to 10 - The company presents DISNEY’S HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, featuring forty students from the Twin Valley, Downingtown and Coatesville school districts.
The company also has several fundraisers going on to help support building renovations and upgrades to audience support, including the Twin Valley Coffee drive running through December 10. Audience members who visit Twin Valley Coffee’s main street location (across the street from Dunkin Donuts at Elverson Crossing) and buy bagged coffee can have a portion of their purchase donated to Vagabond. The number to give to the Twin Valley Coffee company is #1202 in support of Vagabond Acting Troupe.
Winter also brings the next round of enrollment and auditions for the production workshops and the Junior Professional shows, as well as auditions for the 2013 Showstoppers.
The second week in January begins the Spring production series, with free audition workshops and enrollment for spring productions. Information will go up on the website as soon as rights are acquired for all shows, but currently the company plans that these productions will be: CHARLOTTE’S WEB or ALLADIN JR for the youth, a murder mystery for the Jr. Professional and classical works students, THE BAD SEED for adults, and a Jr. Professional musical as yet undetermined. Whatever the shows turn out to be, it is guaranteed that area youth will benefit from a wide range of choices.
For more information about getting your child involved in a production workshop training program, or for information on auditions for the more competitive Jr. Professional project or adult performances, visit the company’s website at www.vagabondactingtroupe.org. To purchase tickets for shows or fundraisers, visit the company’s website, or visit brownpapertickets.com where digital ticketing is available for all upcoming productions.
Vagabond Acting Troupe is a 501c3 non-profit and all donations to the company are deductible to the fullest extent of the law. The company welcomes assistance from the community through project sponsorship and program advertising.