The company had been operating for the past 34 years
It was a tough decision, but after 34 years the Theatre Company of Port Richmond’s Board decided to officially call it a wrap in mid-September. Now, what was founded in 1984 by Bill Murphy, a teacher at Nativity Parish, as a fundraiser and a social event, will simply be remembered as a part of the neighborhood’s history.
“It was a huge part of our lives,” Jim McDermott, a TCPR Board member who directed most of the productions over the years, said. “It just became too hard for the group of people that kept it going for that many years.”
Despite early success which led group members to re-form and expand the theater to Lithuanian Hall, located at Tilton Street and Allegheny Avenue, in 1992, McDermott explained that since then, the decision to close came down to knowing they were no longer able to continue producing performances at the quality they were used to. He added the group members also wished to end the theater’s run on a high note.
“There are many issues that led to this decision [to close] from the high costs to produce, uncertainty with the Lithuanian Hall, loss of people in key areas and more, but I don’t want to dwell on that,” McDermott said. “We may have been able to stumble along for a few more years but it wouldn’t have been what we are accustomed to, and frankly we didn’t want to see it run down.”
In preparation for its closure, and in ensuring that it end on a high note, the company produced “Beauty and the Beast” last spring, which was performed from Friday, March 31 to Sunday, April 9. As its core of people were thinning, a lot of the work to execute this performance fell on the few remaining members, and thus McDermott stressed that it took everyone stretching themselves to their limits to even achieve this final performance.
Yet, in thinking back to the final product of “Beauty and the Beast,” as well as their various other shows over the years that included “Annie,” “South Pacific,” “Guys and Dolls,” “1776,” “The Music Man,” “Oliver,” “Man of La Mancha,” “The Odd Couple” and more, McDermott hopes that participants and members of the community can focus on all of the good that came out of TCPR, rather than just its closing.
“We’ve been devastated by its ending, but I am beginning to now try and focus on the joy and the opportunities it brought to our community,” McDermott, who became involved in the group as a theater major fresh out of college, said.
Moving forward, McDermott says he hopes this closure can serve as a push for community members who love and appreciate theater to find new ways to experience and possibly take part in something they may have previously been afraid to try, but that they had always wanted to. He added he has always felt the opportunity to see live theater has the potential to change the lives of children.
“[The members of TCPR] are proud that we have had quite a few young men and women start with us as children and went on to pursue theater in school and in their professional lives. We also felt that we gave this community quality entertainment,” McDermott said. “Again, [deciding to close] wasn’t easy, but ultimately the right course of action.”