Taking OCP To The Next Stage

Our Community Plays! Fulfills A Dream — With A ‘Therapeutic’ Purpose

Posted: January 30, 2013

Our Community Plays! actors (left to right) Teig Hogan, Gary Sheets Jr. and Chris Bowley rehearse “Invisible Man,” the new community theater troupe’s first production, which will open Thursday night at Our Community Place. (Photos by Holly Marcus / Special to the DN-R)
Troupe founder Ron Copeland, whose longtime dream gave impetus to the production, talks with his cast during rehearsal.
Greigh Vandevander rehearses for “Invisible Man,” the first performance of the new community theater troupe, Our Community Plays!, which will open Thursday night at Our Community Place.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Greigh Vandevander, Chris Bowley and Daniel Montgomery rehearse for “Invisible Man” the first performance of the new community theater troupe, Our Community Plays!
HARRISONBURG — Our Community Place will premiere its first theatrical production Thursday, a longtime dream of founder Ron Copeland.

The new acting troupe — called Our Community Plays! — is years in the making. When Copeland was dreaming up the community center at 17 E. Johnson St., he always imagined it having a theater component.

But when the nonprofit center opened in 2008, organizers became overwhelmed and the idea didn’t come to fruition. After the center, which became known for helping the homeless, closed for a month in 2011 so Copeland and OCP board members could re-evaluate goals, it reopened with a new focus on other aspects of its mission.

“We created a space in which I could start to imagine theater,” he said.
Starting Thursday, the public can see the results. 

The play, “Invisible Man,” will tell the story of a mute homeless man who comes into contact with a host of people on a subway platform.

With about half the cast members having experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, the theme seems appropriate, Copeland says.

While the play and the new theater troupe will likely bring in funds for OCP, the ultimate goal is more extensive, he added.

“I think there’s a therapeutic nature to it,” he said, explaining that group acting builds community and confidence.

Copeland hopes the performances will provide the audience with a new perspective on homelessness, as well.

“There’s all kinds of folks [at OCP], some folks who haven’t been involved in too many things,” he added. “I like it being open to people who are looking for a creative outlet.” 

James Madison University alumnus John S. Wells wrote the one-act play. Tom Arthur, retired JMU theater professor who taught both Wells and Copeland, provided guest direction for the team.

Showings will run Thursday through Saturday at Our Community Place. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and the play starts at 7:30. 

Admission is $5 on Friday and Saturday, and Thursday’s showing will be “pay-what-you-will.” All proceeds will benefit OCP.

 For more information, call 442-7727 or visit www.ourcommunityplace.org.

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or csipos@dnronline.com

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