The Voice of Akron: Weathervane Playhouse connects volunteers to the art of community theater
by Melanie Anderson
Nestled in the Merriman Valley is the Weathervane Playhouse, a longstanding establishment for community theater and a strong member of the Akron artistic community. Now in its 82nd season, the playhouse is currently showing a production of “Red,” soon to be followed by the classic “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.” However, the theater is not only a place for entertainment; it is a place that develops skills and reveals potential as members of the Greater Akron community pool their abilities together to make a script come alive on stage.
The Weathervane is one of the largest and longest running community theaters in the Akron area, and finds a great deal of its success from the volunteers who make it what it is. The Weathervane is about community, and it provides opportunities for all who wish to dip their toes in the well of theater.
“Community theater is tremendously important to a city and region,” explained Todd Dieringer, the director of marketing and technology at Weathervane. “It creates a cultural outlet that is unique to its home. Although the theater may be producing a show that is set in a different geographic region or time period, the cultural influence of the artists will have its own flavor added to the presentation.”
Akron lends its voice through its wide range of volunteers, working on everything from acting to creating costumes and props to ushering and assisting in gift shop sales. With opportunities such as the Emerging Artist Series, actors as young as 10 have an opportunity to perform in complex and professional productions, and many volunteers go on to become established members of the Weathervane family.
Dieringer explains that professional experience is not necessary to get involved.
“Since education is a key part of our mission, we accept volunteers with little to no experience in whatever task they are interested in trying, as we will provide training and mentoring,” he said.
The key is not years of theater under one’s belt, rather it is the enthusiasm and interest of those who wish to get involved, and a deep, shared love for theater.
For many volunteers, it’s not just something to do, it is a way to connect deeply with the arts and to make wonderful memories with people who they come to know as family. While developing skills through mentoring or through the classes offered by the Weathervane, budding artists learn not only the ins and outs of theater, but also have the opportunity to gain confidence and discover their passions.
In a recent discussion about the opportunities the Weathervane provides, Dieringer talked about the magic that happens with live performance. One volunteer actor recently wrote an essay in which she shared a beautiful and personal story about how acting helps her overcome anxiety. In another case, a third-grade acting student went from being apprehensive and uncertain in her classes to gaining the confidence to go on stage on the class’s final performance day and later to go on to be cast in the summer production of Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka.”
“She found her voice and her wings took flight,” Dieringer said. “That is the magic of our theater.”
Coming up at the Weathervane Playhouse is “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which will run from Nov. 22 through Dec. 18. “The Santaland Diaries,” a sarcastic one man show, will carry the Christmas season from Dec. 1 through 17. For tickets, check out the Weathervane Playhouse’s website at weathervaneplayhouse.com.
Melanie is an aspiring writer and professional wanderer. She is excited for all the opportunities Akron has to offer for those interested in the arts and theater.
(Photos courtesy of Weathervane Playhouse)