“Jeeves at Sea” was the next play on the Ilion Little Theater Club (ILT) program in mid-March 2020 when COVID-19 lifted the curtain on the group’s 2019-20 season.
And now, it’s the first play on the band’s 2021-22 season schedule, slated to kick off in mid-September.
“We pretty much picked up where we left off,” said Charlene Lyon, who directs the comedy, adapted by Margaret Raether from a British television series. Most of the cast returned, although Lyon had to recast a few roles.
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The long shutdown has been a costly time for the club, she said. Most of the group’s funds come from ticket sales and donations and pay the bills.
Lately the club have had to deal with costly maintenance issues. The stables – the brick structure at 13 Remington Avenue that served as the Remington family’s stable and shed and has housed the ILT since about 1927 – needed electrical repairs and a new oven.
Then Lyon’s husband George discovered the roof was leaking. A local roofer has agreed to make temporary repairs and assess what needs to be done, said Charlene Lyon.
The stables are listed on the State and National Records of Historic Places, and there are even stories of a mischievous resident ghost, who is believed to be the culprit when items go missing and are found in unexpected places.
George recounts walking through a dark area upstairs using his cell phone as a flashlight, then going out and looking up to see a light on. He came back, turned it off, got out, looked up and saw that the light was on again. This time, on his return, he said, “Please keep the light off. He remained extinct.
Any work done on the roof will have to respect the historic character of the building, noted Charlene Lyon. The club is looking for donations and looking for grants and possible fundraisers. Links to make a donation via a Go fund me or Paypal page are available on the group’s website at www.ilionlittleheatre.org. Checks are also welcome.
Despite the challenges, the club are ready to start the new season.
“Emotionally and psychologically, the closure has taken its toll on the theater community,” Charlene Lyon said, adding that this also included the audience. “It’s a great outlet and it offers fun and socializing. You become a family when you work with people on a play.
George Lyon added that he has seen some of the same spectators return to plays for 20 years.
They hope to see them again at the opening of “Jeeves at Sea”. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on September 17, 18, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on September 19 and 26.
“Miracle on 34th Street”, adapted by Mountain Community Theater from the novel by Valentine Davies, is on the program in late November and early December with the comedy “Game Show” by Jeffrey Finn and Bob Walton scheduled for February. And “12 Incompetent Jurors,” a comedy by Ian McWethy, is slated to open in April.
As for the situation with COVID-19, the group will follow all guidelines in place, Charlene Lyon said.
The ILT has presented at least one play every year since 1924, her husband said. The group is currently preparing for its centennial season in 2023-24.
The Ilion Little Theater Club started out as a group of about 20 people meeting in the attic of Lucille Worden’s home using trunks as seats and an improvised stage, according to Elwyn E. Swarthout’s book, Stable in the Sticks. The group then rented a cabin on Barringer Road. When the Remington Mansion was demolished, the club acquired the stable as a permanent residence for its productions.
Donna Thompson is the Times Telegram’s government and business reporter. Email him at [email protected]