Our Mission ~
Actors Civic Theater’s mission is to provide quality entertainment to the Pittsburgh area, at an affordable price. ACT strives to open up the world of live theater to individuals whom may not be able to afford high professional theater ticket prices, maintaining a high production standard that is enjoyable to everyone.
Actors Civic Theater (ACT) was around years before it found a home (2008-2011) at the Father Ryan Arts Center. Founded by James Critchfield, ACT began it's nomadic force, teaching workshops and summer camps. It’s inaugural Summer Theater workshop was in 2001, at the University of Pittsburgh’s Falk Laboratory School, where Mr. Critchfield was an instructor. It was a five-week day camp for children, kindergarten through 12th grade, ending in a performance of How to Eat Like a Child performed at the Falk School auditorium. The following year the workshop grew, and their performance of Schoolhouse Rock Live, Jr., directed by Warren Shirer, was performed at the Hazlett Theater. Then the next year they moved to St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Brentwood where James Critchfield directed the children in a production of Godspell, Jr.
ACT began adding adult acting classes and laid its head wherever it could.
Cut to 2006- Mary Chess Randolph comes on board, and ACT begins a production of Our Town, co-directed by Ms. Randolph and Mr. Critchfield. ACT still didn’t have a place to sleep, but the pastor of Nativity Church, Fr. John Hissrick, was also a friend of the arts, and offered a room in his school for the cast to rehearse. Fr. John was also in the production. The show was performed at Nativity, as well as other churches in Crafton and the North Hills.
In and around 2007 Actors Civic Theater became involved with the Community Outreach Partnership Center of Point Park University, by teaching theater classes and mounting performances with students from the Sto Rox School District. By now, the anticipation of an Father Ryan Arts Center opening in McKees Rocks was becoming close to reality. Mr. Critchfield was instrumental in the planning process, consulting with the architect in the design of the theater.
Then came the moment for which ACT was longing: In October of 2008, the Father Ryan Arts Center opened its doors. Its resident theater company? Actors Civic Theater, headed by Mr. Critchfield as Executive Director, and Ms. Randolph as Artistic Director. Riding on a wing and a prayer, ACT decided to mount A Christmas Carol~ A Ghost Story. The play was an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic by Mary Chess Randolph and James Critchfield. Mr. Critchfield has played Scrooge for Pittsburgh Musical Theater for 15 different seasons. His dream was always to play the character in his own adaptation for his own theater company.
Directed by Ms. Randolph, this production was filled with ghosts, fog, and the spirit of community. Skilled technicians from the area assisted in mounting the production. David Vinski taught period dances to the cast, while Shaun Rolly coached the ghosts into other-worldly movement. Kim Brown of Spotlight Costumes and Joan Markert of the Pittsburgh Playhouse and Point Park graciously worked with ACT to provide costumes. The production was a great success, selling out many performances.
ACT’s second production was The Melville Boys, by Canadian playwright Norm Foster. Mr. Critchfield originally had directed this play at South Park Theater, and both he and Ms. Randolph had fallen in love with it. The play is about two brothers, factory workers, who come to a fishing lodge for the weekend. The elder brother has been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. The younger refuses to face the fact he is going to lose his brother. They meet two sisters and, through developing a relationship with them, they confront each other and come to terms with all that life has handed them. In an email from the playwright, Ms. Randolph had learned that the play actually had a Pennsylvania connection. Mr. Foster said that one night, on a long trip, the song “Allentown” came on the radio. As he listened, the idea of two factory workers began to materialize. He wrote most of The Melville Boys in his head as he traveled across Canada.
The show had two of its original cast members, Mary Randolph and Bill Crean as the older couple, bringing on Shawn A. Smith and Megan Mitchell as the younger.
ACT’s next show was Seussical, directed by Shawn A. Smith, followed by another mounting of A Christmas Carol~A Ghost Story directed by Lora Oxenreiter. Then came Willy Wonka, directed by Ms. Randolph and starring Robert Frankenberry. Then ACT remounted Our Town with an almost completely new cast. This time Ms. Randolph directed. This past holiday season, Mr. Critchfield directed the charming musical, A Year with Frog and Toad. Whenever possible, ACT tries to use children in its productions. They are required to audition and go through the rehearsal process. ACT's leadership has always been passionate about creating a positive theatrical experience for children, especially if it is their first time involved with a production. That first experience can influence a young person’s feeling toward theater for life, and therefore is a huge responsibility for a teacher or director to make the experience as realistic, but enjoyable as possible.
Ms. Randolph once joked that ACT should change its name to The Beggar’s Theater, because it is very dependent on the kindness of strangers and friends. Working on a minimal budget the shows would not be able to be produced if it were not for the assistance of volunteers and other companies and schools. However ACT feels very strongly about trying to keep ticket prices low (usually less for school matinees), ACT hopes to open the door to residents of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, giving patrons the opportunity for quality live theater. It is important to ACT that all the casts and production crews share this vision.
ACT no longer produces any productions at the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks, but is presently looking to find a new home to continue it's mission providing affordable, high quality live theater.
For the past seven-plus years, ACT has been a proud member of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival (PNWF). Happily since 2009, ACT has been presenting Staged Readings (2009-2013) and producing on the PNWF Main Stage since 2014.