SWPA’s Geyer Performing Arts Center brings entertainment, education | Helping the Helpers

‘We’ve built a theater community that is a wonderful place for people and inclusive for all,’ an official said

By: - December 10, 2021 6:30 am

The Geyer Performing Arts Center reopened in July with “Lend Me a Tenor” after being closed since March 2020 because of the pandemic (Uniontown Herald-Standarad photo)

By Jennifer Garofalo

SCOTTDALE, Pa. — For more than three decades, the Geyer Performing Arts Center has brought theatrical productions to the area, giving artists a chance to create and offering area residents a chance to experience the thrill of a live show.

(Capital-Star file)

“We’ve built a theater community that is a wonderful place for people and inclusive for all,” said Roberta Higinbotham, president of the GPAC’s board of directors.

But, she said, “It was a really rough year-and-a-half. We were unable to do any type of productions, and a large portion of our budget comes from ticket sales.

“When you can’t produce shows, there’s no income coming in,” she said.

The theater maintains a cooperative relationship with Actors and Artists of Fayette County, which produces six shows a year there. GPAC also produces six shows yearly, in addition to one-act plays and educational shows.

The theater also operates the Geyer Education Center in a building adjoining its Pittsburgh Street location in Scottdale.

The nonprofit’s education program includes free after-school care two days a week, classes, and other events meant to give children exposure to theater and the arts.

“So many children in our area … don’t have the opportunity to have an early introduction to art and theater,” Higinbotham said. “This allows us to bring it to them.”

  • IF YOU WANT TO HELP: Those interested in volunteering or becoming board members can email the theater at [email protected] or call the GPAC at 724-887-0887. Donations can be mailed to Geyer Performing Arts Center, 111 Pittsburgh St., Scottdale, Pa., 15683. An online donation option is available at the bottom of the homepage at Geyerpac.com.

The building that is now GPAC was built in 1900, and originally operated as the Geyer Opera House. It went through a couple of name changes over the years, before going back to its roots as the Geyer Performing Arts Center in 2005.

The Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale, Pa. (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)

Because the building is more than 120 years old, Higinbotham said there are always upkeep and maintenance costs to keep it running.

“Finances are a big issue,” she said. “We hate to say it’s all about money, but without financial support we can’t keep the building going.”

The age also limits them from putting on productions that require more high-tech equipment, she said, so the board is working with an engineering company to modernize the theater.

They’re also exploring new ways to raise funds, hopeful that the community they serve will rally around them.

“It’s difficult in this area, but we think that people really understand how important the theater is – not just for those who participate but for the community at large,” said Higinbotham.

Although the theater stopped productions for several months, the board continued to work on finding funding streams. A grant allowed them to renovate the education center to make it more accessible, and handicapped accessible restrooms were added.

“It’s more user-friendly now, for not only classes, but for rehearsal space,” Higinbotham said.

They’re also holding fundraisers, like the upcoming Elf Fun Run on Dec. 18. The run coincides with Actors and Artists of Fayette County’s production of “Elf the Musical,” running from Dec. 16-19.

Higinbotham said the theater is also in need of volunteers, including ushers, ticket collectors and box office workers, and the educational arm of GPAC is accepting volunteers to run arts-related workshops for the children it serves.

The board of directors also has a couple of vacancies, she noted, should anyone have the time and interest to serve in that capacity.

While the scuttled 2020 season was a financial difficulty, Higinbotham said she’s encouraged to see attendance slowly going up.

A recent production of “Spring Awakening” saw the highest box office since reopening in July, she said.

“We have amazing talent in this community,” Higinbotham said, “and we welcome anybody who would like to get involved with us.”

Jennifer Garofalo is managing editor of the Uniontown Herald-Standard. Readers may email her at [email protected]. Helping the Helpers is a cooperative effort between the Uniontown Herald-Standard and the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. 

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