Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

DuBois’ Reitz Theater returns to the stage, after using COVID closures as a time to renovate

Actors rehearse for the Reitz Theater's upcoming play, "The Last Five Years."
The Reitz Theater
Actors rehearse for the Reitz Theater's upcoming play, "The Last Five Years."

Last year, COVID-19 ravaged the theater industry with closures and cancelations. But while the pandemic continues its number on Broadway, smaller venues across the country are returning to the stage. A community theater in DuBois, the Reitz Theater, has reopened to the public.

“It's always been a thriving theater, and it still is, but we were dark for 18 months and we started back up in October with our first show, ‘The Mousetrap.’ We didn't have full sell-out of the six performances, but each night was very well attended, more than half a house,” said Debbie Wirths, a volunteer board member.

Wirths attributes the theater’s success to its volunteer workers who kept costs down when COVID prevented them from generating revenue through ticket sales.

“We're pretty frugal with how we spend our money and we're very conscientious about where our funding goes into and how things get spent,” Wirths said. “We have about a 20-person board which is considered rather large and the majority of us do take a role in something to make sure that things continue.”

The Reitz Theater lives in a former church built in 1887. During the 18-month hiatus, the board used grants to renovate the building, including a new heating and cooling system, carpeting, and a wheelchair ramp. Plans for an additional building for set design and storage are also underway.

“We just secured a large grant through DCED, which is the Department of Conservation and Economic Development. It's a state-funded grant. The property next door is a grassy lot we own, and we'll be putting up a brand-new building starting in March,” Wirths said.

Hannah Allen is majoring in Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State DuBois. Before college, she had been an active member of the theater since she was 8. Allen appreciates how it attracts a wide range of people.

“I think my favorite part was just seeing everybody of like different ages because like I was able to see people younger than me, my age and there were adults, too. So, it was really cool to see how everybody interacted and came together,” Allen said.

COVID hit right in the middle of a show, and that made reopening even harder.

“So, they had to do like a super, super long break, and then they came back with that show, but some of the casting changed. So, I think it was kind of hard for people, especially on the board, because they did want to open back up and just couldn’t,” Allen said.

As the Reitz Theater returns to full operation, Wirths said it remains reliant on the dedicated volunteers who make it what it is today.

“We were very fortunate. And I do say that our board has done a very good job, our fiduciary, just our focus has always been to make sure that we're not only providing quality artistic performances and things like that but that we have the integrity of keeping this building in good shape but then also keeping things affordable and making sure that we're staying on top of everything,” Wirths said.

The Reitz Theater is following CDC guidelines and cleaning procedures for shows. Volunteers and patrons must wear face masks and practice social distancing inside.

The Theater’s next production will be “The Last Five Years” and will run from Feb. 11 to 13 and Feb. 17 to 19.

WPSU partnered with a class in Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications to do in-depth reporting in the DuBois area. Support for this student reporting project on WPSU comes from the Benkovic Family Foundation of State College.