Community Cornerstones – Forge Theatre

photo by Virginia Lindak

For more than fifty years, Forge Theatre in Phoenixville has been a part of the arts and culture scene in the community. Located on First Avenue, the theater hosts a varying selection of live plays and musical throughout the year.

The roughly 83 seat theater is a “black box” theater which refers to the changeability aspect of the stage and seating arrangements per each production. General Productions Chair of Forge Theatre, Marnie Herzfeld, said the theater is popular because of its smaller atmosphere.

“Coming up is our 52nd season,” said Herzfeld. “Live theater in the community, it does bring in an area of the arts. We’re quite affordable for senior citizens and we have season ticket holders who have been members for years. They come to all the shows, they like the ambiance. The like they intimate nature of the theater. We’re small which means they can hear, they can see. If they tell us they have movement restrictions they’ll be seated right in the front row. None of the seating is fixed, it’s movable.”

Herzfeld said Forge Theatre originally began as an itinerant theatre group in the area, which lasted for twelve years until the First Avenue location was purchased in the early 1970s. Before that, the building had been F.B. Neiman and Sons Funeral Home. After remodeling the building, the theater opened its 12th season in the new location and has remained there ever since.

“As a community theater we feel like we are able to be more competitively priced and more accessible,” said Herzfeld. “I had several people tell me that they had seen The Drowsy Chaperone (a recent show in June) in New York, they liked ours better. I think the reason was they feel more connected to the actors because it’s closer, it’s more intimate. It makes them more connected to the production. People loved seeing tap dancing right in front of them, these intricate dance steps, right in front of them. We’ve had that experience with other shows too.”

A committee decides on the different productions that will show each year, and the committee also changes members every year. Each production has its own production team which is made up of the director, producer, stage manager, music director, choreographer, set designer and lighting designer. Herzfeld said the production team is responsible for building the set.

“Generally speaking we try to do two musicals, two comedies and then drama and someplace in there a mystery. People like mysteries. We try to have a little bit of everything for everybody,” Herzfeld said.

The director and the production staff of each show holds open auditions for the show castings. Auditions are typically held two-and-a-half months before opening night.

“We have open auditions and they can come from everywhere. We’ve have actors come from as far away as Delaware and New Jersey,” said Herzfeld. “Sometimes it’s people who get started coming and are in a show and like the atmosphere. Quite often it’s somebody who sees an audition for a show they like or a part they want, and they show up. Lots of people stay around, (and) sometimes they’re once and done.”

“Now that Phoenixville has a night life and restaurants, you can go to dinner and a show,” Continued Herzfeld. “We’re kind of hoping we might be Manyunk West. We like people to have options. It’s diversity. It’s different aspects of the arts, it’s having a variety, it’s having things for people to do in Phoenixville.”

Show schedules, tickets and more information is available at www.forgetheatre.org