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> Bethany Theater makes move to Woodsong Country Inn to continue mission

Not everyone who wanted to see Bethany Area Repertory Theater’s latest show was able to.

More than 60 people were on a waiting list for tickets, said Jeff Martini, president of the board of the theater, known as BART. And with that many on the list, the theater stopped adding names to it, he said.

A larger seating capacity is one benefit of BART’s move from the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Millville to the Woodsong Country Inn in Frankford, Martini said. The theater will perform its first show at the new location, Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” in September.

“It’s a lovely spot out in the country,” Martini said.

BART enjoyed its time at the Dickens, but after about five years, the growing organization has found a new location at which to work toward meeting its goals, Martini said.

BART’s mission has three parts, the most important of which is awarding college scholarships, Martini said. BART has given out $9,000 in scholarships so far, he said.

The mission is outlined on the nonprofit’s Facebook page:

“To provide opportunities for local residents to participate in live theater on-stage, off-stage, or in management capacities; To deliver quality live theater to the greater Bethany area; To support education by funding scholarships for local high school students who wish to pursue a career in the arts.”

BART did not perform summer shows at the Dickens Parlour Theatre because the venue hosts magic shows during the summer. That will change with the new location.

“We’ll be able to have a summer season,” Martini said.

He said BART, which consists entirely of volunteers, plans to add two summer shows starting in the summer of 2018 to the four other theater performances it puts on during the rest of the year.

The Woodsong Country Inn also offers more flexibility, including with rehearsals, Martini said.

As BART is expanding, so is the Woodsong Country Inn, said Lisa Condon, who serves as the operations director for the inn through her company, Red Sapphire Consulting. The Woodsong Country Inn is moving toward a focus on hosting different types of events, she said.

Having this artistic group at the inn will bring a “different soul” there, said Condon, who also is on BART’s board and has acted with the group. She said she recused herself from the vote regarding the space. 

Condon also said the inn wants to host events to be held in connection with BART performances.

“We’re incredibly excited about the partnership with BART,” Condon said.

In addition to more space for the audience, there’s also more space for the performers, said Rusty Hesse, who has directed many BART shows and is also the group’s treasurer.

Hesse said BART will be able to build different, larger sets at the Woodsong Country Inn. BART’s new home used to be a wedding venue, he said, and during shows, audience members will be seated at tables instead of in rows. Wine, Beer  and non-alcoholic drinks will be served, he said.

Audience members will also be looking up at the stage, Hesse said.

“I think people will see how much more we can do there,” he said.

BART co-founder Bob Davis is elated about the theater’s progress.

“It’s everything I hoped it would be,” said Davis, a playwright who wrote 11 of the shows BART has performed.

BART wants to keep the growth going. The theater is always interested in hearing from people who want to be involved in various ways, from performing on stage as actors to constructing sets to working on costumes, Davis said.

Davis said BART being able to provide scholarships for youth studying the arts is meaningful to him.

“That’s really the reward of doing this,” he said.

The scholarships don’t have to go to aspiring actors — they can be for other types of artistic endeavors, such as music or creative writing, Martini said.

The theater has the goal of providing 20 scholarships by the end of the 2020 season, Martini said. BART awarded three scholarships last year and six this year at $1,000 each.

Scholarships are funded through ticket sales, along with funds from donors and sponsors, he said.

While the Woodsong Country Inn will hold about 75 to 100 audience members compared to just more than 50 at the Dickens, people will still be able to enjoy the cozy feel of a smaller venue, Martini said.

“It’s a great space to enjoy a theater production,” he said.

Ticket Information

Want to see a BART show? Ticket sales for the next performance, Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” will open in about mid-August. The show will be held at the Woodsong Country Inn, at 37269 Dirickson Creek Road in Frankford. Show dates are Sept. 21-23 and Sept. 28-30. For information, visit the theater’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/bartinbethany. BART can also be reached at bartinbethany@gmail.com.