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Fundraiser attracts professional talent

WHALLONSBURG Local theater-lovers were treated to a unique opportunity on Oct. 4 as four highly accomplished stage professionals presented a reading of Samuel Becketts one-act play Endgame. George Hearn, John Christopher Jones, Ted Cornell, and Shami McCormick starred in the absurdist play about a blind master, his servant who cant sit down, and his legless parents, all living in a bleak, obscure existence. Hearn, who read the part of Hamm, is a well-known Tony-award-winning broadway actor and vocalist, having starred in the title role in an early production of Sweeny Todd. His most recent broadway role was as the wizard in the popular musical Wicked. Jones has also starred in a number of plays both on and off Broadway and has both directed and starred in a number of productions at Westports Depot Theatre. McCormick, for the past 25 years, has been the artistic director at the Depot Theatre and has also starred in some of its plays. Another professional, Cornell coordinated the first off-Broadway show to win a prestigious Pulitzer prize. He has also won an Obie award for his work as an off-Broadway director. The four sat in front of an audience of about 75 people, dramatically reading through the script. Narration of the stage directions provided an imaginary glimpse of the play. A Special Cause No admission was charged for the performance, but it collected $700 in contributions for its cause: The Friends of the Whallonsburg Grange Hall. Since 1915, the hall has acted as a primary gathering place in the community, hosting a wide variety of social and educational events. Now owned by the town of Essex, it will be undergoing a renovation project to help it continue that tradition. Cornell, who acts as the manager for the building, called in his fellow thespians together to help promote its restoration. Its a project that the Whallonsburg Civic Association and the Friends of the Whallonsburg Grange Hall hope to have under way by 2009. Proposed renovations include the installation of a septic system, raising the ceiling, and updating the basement level with new kitchen equipment. Were developing in detail our plan of attack, said Cornell, and we hope, by the first of the year, to present a plausible way of getting all this done. The group meets every Tuesday from 6:30-8 p.m. at the grange hall to discuss future development. Cornell emphasized that they are actively searching for organizations who may want to utilize the revitalized facility on a regular basis. Were open for business. said Cornell. We want people to come forward and tell us, not only what they can contribute, but what they want. Entertainment groups like the Boquet River Theater Festival and Champlain Valley Film Society are already making plans to use the grange hall, but Cornell hopes to get other types of organizations involved as well. We dont want it to be just another arts thing, said Cornell. This is for everybody.

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