Special to Times Publishing Newspapers, Inc.
Morrisville ‘s own Actors’ NET of Bucks County continues its 16th season with William Inge’s classic 1950s drama, “Come Back, Little Sheba.”
The stunning Inge drama about a middle-aged couple’s marriage in crisis performs now through February 12th at The Heritage Center on N. Delmorr Avenue in Morrisville.
“Our Sweet 16 season is ambitious, onstage and behind-the-scenes,” exclaimed Actors’ NET General Manager Joe Doyle.
Co-founded in 1996 by Joe and his wife, Cheryl, “The NET” has averaged staging more than a show a month in the borough since their corps of volunteers converted the former municipal garage into a theatre space in 1999. All the labor was done by volunteers – from pro bono work by architects to the laborers who hammered, sawed and painted.
“It was a labor of love,” Joe noted. “Our very existence continues to prove that the arts are alive and well in Morrisville. The late Mayor Anthony Dominic believed in us and was one of the many volunteer workers who helped make our ‘Impossible Dream’ come true.”
The Heritage Center opened May 15th, 1999 with a production of the musical “Man of La Mancha,” which has as its signature song “The Impossible Dream.” Since its Heritage Center premiere, the company has produced more than 190 shows, ranging from light-hearted comedies to serious dramas.
In 2004, for the Borough’s bicentennial, Joe Doyle authored and The NET produced an original musical – “The Man Who Bought a Country” – about the life and times of Robert Morris, for whom the community is named.
Year-round, Actors’ NET productions attract performers from throughout the region, especially Bucks and Mercer Counties. As the company grew, the Doyles have encouraged others to get more deeply involved.
“This season, besides staging some incredible productions, we have launched a capital campaign – raising monies to spiff up the old theatre. Anyone who’s been a regular theatre-goer or even a casual one will love the new aesthetics. We’ll keep working like busy bees to improve the look of the venue throughout the season.”
In recent years, its Board of Directors has taken a more active role in planning for the future to assure the nonprofit theatre company’s long-term existence after the founders retire. Also, this season the Doyles have limited themselves to directing only one show each and bringing on board a slate of six directors to tackle the other productions.
The NET also offers theatrical training. It runs a four-week youth musical theatre program, “The Summer Stars.” Starting the first Monday after the Fourth of July (this year, it begins July 9th), children age seven to 12 attend classes for four weeks on weekday mornings, while teens age 13 to 17 attend afternoon classes.
Taught the basics in acting, singing and dance by business professionals, both groups at course’s end perform original musicals custom-written for the students. No one has only a bit part. All have solos and get a chance for his or her moment to star.
“We’ve been at this so long now,” Joe noted, “that some of the youngsters we trained are now theatre professionals, while several have become recording artists.”
Area critics have consistently lauded the productions at the Heritage Center.
“Even The Philadelphia Daily News a few years back named The NET the best area theatre outside of Philadelphia! Critics for The Princeton Packet frequently name some of our shows among the best plays produced in the area each year, professional and semi-professional. Most recently, our 16th season opener, ‘Riding the Comet,’ received that accolade.”
“We’re a non-Equity company with a knack for attracting some of the best talent around,” Joe observed. “We hold group auditions several times a year, but will also audition people on an individual basis. Anyone interested in acting with us can call or email us to set up an appointment.
“We also always need volunteers – from ushers to set builders and painters,” he added. “There are so many ways to get involved and we pride ourselves on having a theatrical family atmosphere. Perhaps that’s why so many great area performers think of The NET as their home.”
Joe said, “Following ‘Come Back, Little Sheba,’ The NET’s 16th season continues March 12th – 25th with Ted Tally’s ‘Terra Nova’ – a stark drama about an ill-fated polar expedition; Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ follows April 20th – May 13th; Lillian Hellman’s ‘The Little Foxes’ performs June 8th – 24th and we conclude the season July 13th – 29th with the blockbuster musical, ‘Gypsy.’
“All shows will be pure entertainment, pure Actors’ NET,” Doyle predicted.
The Actors’ NET performs at The Heritage Center – 635 N. Delmorr Avenue (Route 32), Morrisville – near the Calhoun Street Bridge. Performing year-round, show admission is $20 for adults, $17 for seniors over 61 and $10 for children under 13.