Campus connection

Newark's community theatre group maintains ties to UD

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10:16 a.m., June 13, 2014--From its beginnings 80 years ago, Newark's official community theatre -- the Chapel Street Players -- has had strong ties to the University of Delaware. 

This month's fundraiser, Dame Edna's Annual Family and Down Under Members Barbecue, is no exception as it features several alumni, UD employees and a current undergraduate.

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The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization first started as the University Drama Group in 1934 on campus. At the time, the organization was made up mostly of faculty, their spouses and a few locals, and performed about two or three shows a season in Mitchell Hall. The current E-52 Student Theatre is a cousin of sorts to the original organization. 

In the 1960s, as the University's own theatre department was expanding, there was no longer room on the Mitchell Hall schedule to accommodate the group. In 1968, the University Drama Group moved into its current location at 27 North Chapel St., Newark, and began operating as the Chapel Street Players. With its proximity to campus and University history, it continues to be connected to the University through its board members and volunteers. 

Their upcoming June FUNdraiser, "Dame Edna's Annual Family and Down Under Members Barbecue" is no exception as it features several alumni, UD employees, and an undergraduate.  

Running June 13-15 and 19-21, the show was written and directed by Delaware's own Dame Edna impersonator and alumnus Scott Mason, senior associate director of the University Student Centers. As part of the comedic twist of the show, alumnus Frank Newton, assistant dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, plays Mason as an impersonator of Dame Edna, while Mason pretends to be the real thing. Alumna Judith A. David, custodial manager for Laird Campus, is the lighting designer for the show and makes a brief appearance. Mason, Newton and David are also board members of the theatre. 

Also included in the 17 person ensemble are UD employees Susan Boudreaux, academic adviser, Professional Continuing Studies; April Kendra, assistant professor of English and women and gender studies; and Susan Luchey, associate director, University Student Centers. Alumni cast members include Peter Kuo, Bill Starcher and Brian Touchette. Finally, current student Michael Moak, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, plays the Dame's iPhone-addicted nephew, and his mother, UD parent Susie Moak, also plays a role. 

This marks the organization's 51st annual fundraiser which last year was named the "Annual Renee' G. O'Leary FUNdraiser" in honor of a long-time member of the Chapel Street Players board who has been in every single June production, including this one, playing the Dame's mother. O'Leary has been involved with elementary education throughout her career, and along with her husband, the late Dr. John (Jack) O'Leary, have been donors to UD, including the recent creation of a named scholarship.

Show times are 8 p.m. on June 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 and 2 p.m. on June 15. All tickets are $20 with no discounts.

For more information or to reserve tickets, visit  www.chapelstreetplayers.org. Due to some comedic topic content of the show, parental discretion is advised. 

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