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Local theater groups entertain thousands across the Mohawk Valley

By Hilary Lane

If you are looking to enjoy a great live show with top notch acting and pitch perfect singing, you don't need to break the bank or travel all the way to the Big Apple.

"Just because we live in the Mohawk Valley which is the sticks to people Downstate, doesn't mean we shouldn't have art, entertainment, and theater," said Art Wilks of the Ilion Theatre Club. "Theater has been around for hundreds of years. The people here need that too."

That is why there is community theater. Players of Utica and the Ilion Theatre Club are two of the oldest continuously producing theaters in the country, entertaining thousands of locals over the past century.

"Recreate something you may have seen on Broadway and maybe do it differently but keep it affordable." said Vince Scalise of the Players of Utica.
"Our tickets are all under $20."

Unlike Broadway where you admire the actors from afar, the charm of community theater is that you are up close and personal.

"You can feel the vibrations from the music without microphones and without speakers," said Scalise. "Right here it's intimate and your body is feeling the intimacy of the moment because you are right next to them almost if you are part of the play."

The community theater groups are non-profit, running on ticket sales and the support of all the volunteers that make it possible.

Many of the actors end up taking on other roles beyond what is dictated in their scripts.

"I have learned to build a few sets and assist," said Scalise. "I take out the garbage, I clean the bathrooms, and coordinate volunteer efforts."

Scalise also plays the part of the President of Players of Utica, President of its Board of Governors and one of the group's actors.

It's what's needed to be done to make sure the lights go up and the show goes on each and every season.

"Television is wonderful," said Wilks. "But seeing people on stage where you can feel what they are feeling, that's what is important."

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