Live shows return to theater

COLUMBIANA – People with dreams of acting, or a even a passing interest, will have more opportunities to tap into those skills since Crown Theater Productions is getting into its second full year of live play offerings.

The production group began offering live entertainment every so often at the theater on North Main Street in 2011, but the first real season wasn’t until last year, Executive Director Debbie Salmen said.

“It started out slow last year. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was very popular. I think our name is starting to get out there and they are seeing that our shows are good, plus we have free movies that we offer too,” she said.

Crown Theater kicked off live performances of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” this weekend, and auditions for “Music Man” will begin today and Tuesday from 6 to 9 p.m.

“Anybody can come out, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never been in a play before, come out and audition,” Salmen said.

Crown Theater Productions is a faith-based non-profit organization, and the live productions and free movies are offered as an outreach to the community, she explained.

The production group consists of a nine-member board who, with the exception of Salmen, work on a volunteer basis. Actors are also volunteer.

While movies are free to the public, tickets for the plays can be purchased online at

Due to licensing rights ,movie titles cannot be publicized prior to a showing, although they can be released to those who sign up for the Family Movie Club.

Movies will now be offered on a monthly basis and those who turn out for a movie can also participate in Bingo, held a half-hour before showings.

The group is able to continue its live plays thanks to a recent grant from the Columbiana Community Foundation. The foundation awarded $16,540 for production rights for this year’s plays.

Foundation member Deann Davis said the group was awarded $12,000 for rights to last year’s plays and the grant was increased this year because more well-known plays are being offered and the rights to those plays were more costly.

Salmen said the plays are being well-received already this year.

In February the group had to add two more showings of “Annie” due to its popularity, for a total of nine showings, including the special performance for local schools. Those shows were held during the school day with schools earning discounted tickets.

“Music Man” will begin June 13, with additional dates and information available on the website. Other plays include “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which will be featured in October and “Miracle on 34th Street” in December.

Crown Theater Productions will be offering its first ever drama workshop for elementary kids this summer, Salmen said.

The workshop will begin around August. An official start date will be forthcoming.

“This is the whole idea, to get younger children involved in the theater and in the arts. If you don’t start them when they are younger they are not going to see the benefits and rewards of being involved in the arts,” she said.

Next year she hopes to add a drama workshop especially for special needs kids.

“Once little kids start, they love it. I just feel like special needs are kind of left out in regular plays, there are not that many parts. I’m really excited about next year,” she said.