The Playhouse at McConnellstown is an all-volunteer theatre company, incorporated as Go West Productions in the early 1980s. The company regularly performs in its own seventy-seven seat theatre housed in an historic 1872 church in the village of McConnellstown, PA, five miles south of Huntingdon on Route 26.
Our mission is to support a community theatre company, developing and providing access to the performing arts and arts education in rural Huntingdon County, through interpretation of existing plays, developing new works and providing training, coaching, and experience to people interested in the performing arts.
From its beginnings, The Playhouse at McConnellstown has strived to maintain a strong presence in the local community. The company welcomes people of all ages and different walks of life, and boasts talent ranging from newcomers to former Broadway and television veterans. These members work together to bring performing arts to a location which lacks the cultural attributes of a larger, more urban area.
The Playhouse has also taken its performances beyond its home stage with numerous dinner theatre productions, festivals, and presentations at the Huntingdon County Fair, and has also partnered with Juniata College and The Pennsylvania State University with productions on the stages of Oller Hall and Schwab Auditorium respectively.
Go West Productions supports local and national charities through its artistic endeavors and promotes arts education in schools and the public. The Playhouse presents Prize-winning dramas, slapstick comedies, and everything in between for enthusiastic audiences. Come join us as we continue to bring live theatre to Huntingdon County.
We are Small, but Mighty!
Go West Productions, Inc., an all volunteer theatre company, created a small seventy-seven seat theatre called “The Playhouse at McConnellstown” in a historic 1872 church. This company was organized for charitable, literary, and educational purposes. Specifically, the organization was created to support a community theatre company, developing and providing access to the performing arts and arts education in rural Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. The corporation exists to provide area artists with opportunities and resources to present a wide range of theatrical experiences to the public. For this purpose, it is committed to interpreting existing plays and developing new works — providing training, coaching, and experience to people interested in the performing arts. In its thirty year existence, Go West Productions, Inc. has involved hundreds of individuals and families in over 200 theatrical productions including concerts, workshops, and children’s theatre classes with over 1100 public performances.
From its humble beginning in the early 1980s, Go West Productions, Inc. has strived to maintain a strong presence in the local community. The company, comprised of people of all ages and different walks of life, boasts talent ranging from newcomers to former Broadway veterans to television personalities. These members work together to bring performing arts to a location which lacks the cultural attributes of a larger, more urban area. Furthermore, this organization works with surrounding school districts to provide assistance and arts education to local youth and young adults. The Playhouse at McConnellstown serves not only as a necessary liaison between the performing arts and the Huntingdon area, but also for the greater Central Pennsylvania region by encouraging involvement from people outside its modest territory.
The theatre season opens in the spring and closes in the beginning of December, and averages approximately five shows per season with rehearsals starting in February each year. Show selections are chosen by the governing board, company suggestion, community support, and popularity. This allows The Playhouse at McConnellstown to cater to the tastes of the community and to branch out and explore more diverse forms of performance. Shows are also chosen based on size of potential cast; if roles cannot be completely filled, Go West Productions, Inc. substitutes another play. Auditions for the first production take place in February, and those for the next show occur between the performances of the current production. Typically, shows have between five and twenty cast members, a director and stage manager, a set designer, a props manager, a costumer, and three to five people working as the light and sound crew. Other members of the company serve as parking lot and box office attendants, ushers, and concessions volunteers. The delegation of these tasks allows The Playhouse at McConnellstown to function in an efficient manner while still meeting the needs of the theatre and community.
Performances at The Playhouse vary in size, style, and location. Go West Productions, Inc. adapts such well-known, large cast works as Miracle on 34th Street, Into the Woods, and The Wizard of Oz for its smaller stage. These shows have large audience appeal, giving The Playhouse the opportunity to bring popular selections to the community. In addition, the company also takes more dramatic, artistic, and educational approaches with productions like Wit, Copenhagen, and Master Class to challenge the cast and encourage them to further interpret and develop their craft as actors. These shows also challenge the audience to examine its own artistic self-awareness. Go West Productions, Inc. has offered its stage to other theatre troupes as well. They have shared their space with a traveling production of The Belle of Amherst. Additionally, the Vagabond Acting Troupe (V.A.T.) from Morgantown, PA, sponsored by the Huntingdon County Arts Council, used The Playhouse at McConnellstown as a workspace to develop a play about recycling which was geared toward elementary and middle school students. The V.A.T. specializes in interactive performances for audiences of all age levels in Pennsylvania. The Playhouse at McConnellstown has also taken its performances beyond their traditional stage with numerous dinner theatre productions, festivals, and presentations at the Huntingdon County fair. Productions have occurred in locations outside of the Huntingdon area, thus exposing the performing arts to other communities in Central Pennsylvania. Furthermore, Go West has partnered with Juniata College and The Pennsylvania State University with productions on the stages at Juniata College in Huntingdon and Schwab Auditorium at the University Park campus in State College, Pennsylvania. By using a more spacious auditorium, The Playhouse is able to expose a greater audience to the performing arts, thus sparking new membership and interest from the community.
Moreover, Go West Productions, Inc. supports charities at the local and national level. The Playhouse annually donates season tickets for auction to the local Public Broadcast Service (PBS) affiliate, WPSU, and Huntingdon County PRIDE (Promoting Rehabilitation, Independence, Dignity, and Education) Telethon. The money from these auctions is used to fund the charities: WPSU uses the money to provide programming for the viewing and listening area, while PRIDE offers rehabilitation, education, and early intervention services in Huntingdon County. The Playhouse at McConnellstown has also been used as a venue to raise money for the Huntingdon County Arts Council, which featured The Deacons of Dixieland, an eight piece traditional jazz band from Central Pennsylvania. Other presentations and donations have benefited the American Cancer Society, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, The Lake Raystown Amphitheatre, The Centre County Historical Society, The Huntingdon County Humane Society, The Huntingdon County Historical Society and Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity.
While Go West Productions, Inc. promotes advocacy for the performing arts through civic responsibility and community involvement, it also encourages its company to flourish as actors and writers. The Playhouse at McConnellstown has held several public workshops, focusing on personal and professional development for actors and writers. These events are designed to provide arts education, encourage community involvement, and develop new works. From these workshops, several local writers emerged with works produced at The Playhouse. New plays by Donald Dietz, Luise Van Keuren, Paul Blaum and Daniel Weston have been produced on its stage. Similarly, The Playhouse at McConnellstown has fostered a strong bond with local school districts, improving arts education in the area. This relationship started in the 1990s with a Children’s Theatre program. These productions were written and performed by members of the company for local elementary schools. Students came to The Playhouse to watch their favorite stories come to life on the stage. In recent years, Go West Productions, Inc. has supported high school and collegiate theatre arts by providing light and sound design, costumes, props, and coaching for actors. This rapport between school and community theatre has helped affirm the need for access to the performing arts in a rural locale while also providing young people with an opportunity to pursue dramatic performance outside of the classroom. As a result, students from the local schools and colleges have joined The Playhouse as part of the theatre company.
Go West Productions, Inc. would be unable to accomplish any of these goals without the support of the community. The organization begins its annual fundraising campaign in January. A letter asking for donations is mailed to over 400 patrons and friends of The Playhouse in Huntingdon and surrounding counties in Pennsylvania, as well as to individuals in other states who have requested it, not through mass mailing. Patron response is generally about 25%. These donations provide the necessary funds to maintain the facility and pay royalties for the season’s productions. The Playhouse commences a season ticket subscription campaign in February and March, targeted at members in Huntingdon and surrounding counties in Pennsylvania and generates a 30% response. Most of this money pays for the royalty and production costs of the season’s shows. As a third source of revenue, Go West sells advertising space in the season’s playbill. These ads are sold to area businesses between January and March for print in April. These funds are used to produce a printed playbill and to maintain the performance facility. Finally, box office revenue, at the door donations, and refreshment sales from each production are used to cover any remaining costs accrued throughout the season.
Go West Productions, Inc. has served as an arts advocate in the Huntingdon area, and in the surrounding communities for thirty years with the support of fundraising, donations, and box-office revenue. It has supported local and national charities through its artistic endeavors and has promoted arts education for schools and the public. The goals of Go West Productions, Inc. have been clear for thirty years: advocacy, civic responsibility, and education. These were the goals of the past, and they are the goals of the future. The theatre will continue to present a variety of theatrical experiences to the public, to sponsor charitable efforts in the area, to support arts education in local schools, and to promote the performing arts in the community, and will continue to do so as an all volunteer organization.