Coming to a stage near you

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First Posted: 6/12/2014

WILKES-BARRE — This weekend will mark a pair of firsts for KISS Theatre performers.

It’s the theater’s first performance directed solely by freshman director Ashley Jevin, and it’s the group’s first to take place outside the Wyoming Valley Mall, its recently vacated home of five years.

The non-profit theater organization, Kids Innovating Sound and Stage Theatre (KISS), was notified in March it had 90 days to scram from a sweet set-up in the former Great Escape Cinema in the rear of the mall.

In May, land investor and former Indy Car champ Joe Amato offered the group of about 200 actors between ages 3 and 18 a home in his recently-purchased and quite empty East End Centre in Wilkes-Barre Township.

Until the group raises enough capital to retrofit the new building, it will have to schedule performances until the fall at other venues throughout Wilkes-Barre. The theater board has raised about $50,000 toward its capital campaign goal of around $165,000 needed, interim Artistic Director David Parmalee said.

On Wednesday, Jevin, 25, of Forty Fort, was waist deep in a three-hour technical rehearsal with the theater’s “Littles” age group, from 3 1/2 years to 10, blocking out steps to a rendition of Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.”

Opening night is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday in the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre on North Main Street. Jevin said the youngest actors are a bit uncertain in the new space.

“It’s a little difficult for the kids here. Some of them are very young,” Jevin said. “We’re a little nervous as we always are with opening night. But they always pull it together, and they always do a good job.”

Last week, the group pulled the remaining props, equipment and costumes out of the old building with a little help from Fortis Institute, which donated a large truck and driver-in-training for an afternoon to move the materials less than a mile to the new spot.

Another KISS family donated warehouse space to hold some of the equipment until the new building is finished, KISS board member Debbie Milford said.

“KISS parents are wonderful. We wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” Milford said.

The Wyoming Valley Mall donated the stage and cinema seats to the theater, which puts them a little ahead of the game, KISS board member Sherry Zwiebel said.

“We would have had to downsize dramatically,” Zwiebel said.

A deal with a stage and theater builder is pending, but if all goes according to plan, the curtains will rise in KISS’ new home theater for the first time in the fall with “West Side Story.”

Until construction is finished, upcoming productions are to be rehearsed and performed on stages around Wilkes-Barre, Skyler Makuch, 17, stage manager for “Sleeping Beauty,” said.

King’s College is opening its doors for the young actors to perform “Titanic,” rehearsals for “Honk Jr.” are going on at Arts YoUniverse on Franklin Street and St. Nicholas- St. Mary’s School on Washington Street is offering its stage for the Broadway musical “13.”

The transition has tested the group’s fortitude, but generosity has flowed freely toward the theater group, Makuch said. The most curious thing, she said, how quickly things can change.

“It’s weird, to be honest,” Makuch said. “It’s just odd to see how 90 days just goes by so fast.”