The Dingmans Ferry Theatre will bring joy and emotion through performance
By Katie Collins
Follow Katie @Lifestyles51
DINGMANS FERRY - Dingmans Ferry is set to have its own stage, where imagination and emotion will be shared through performances.
An idea nine years ago, has led to the creation of the Dingmans Ferry Theatre and now, Dennis Lee with the help of Michelle Markey and Tim Singleton are in the midst of renovating a cabin that stands within Akenac Park.
Lee, who acted in the 1970’s and maintained a role in casting, has dreamt of returning to the theatre he said. Now a retired safety manager from New York City, he recalls doing improv and seeing the skits on Saturday Night Live; so, he hopes to offer others a chance to do what they enjoy.
A resident of Pike County for 20 years, Lee has produced a few documentaries about different areas of the region because he enjoys seeing people smile, he said. Theatre opens people to showing their emotions and allows people to “see themselves in characters” and “they see their life in front of them” when they laugh and cry.
A place to perform
The premise of the Dingmans Ferry Theatre is to offer people a place to perform with the hope of doing so at no cost to them, because the building is a part of the park, but it's under recreation, allowing for it to be its own entity. The usage of the building isn’t costing the township. Initially, the building was just a cabin with the basics that likely were part of a camp before the park was created.
Lee said it’s the audience that makes being a small intimate theatre special because the crowd will feel as if they’re on stage with the actors. He expects that feeling to be evident at the Dingmans Ferry Theatre because there will be just 56 seats, with the furthest being 16 feet from the stage. Being small and intimate is “nice” he said, since there’s not a bad seat in the house. The seating too, will be comfortable since he plans to use church seats that are cushioned with armrests.
A vision for the community
Basically, Lee said he “had a vision” and he listened to people when they shared their ideas and now, it’s clear what can be done with the building because of the blue tape on the floor that shows where the stage will be as renovations are underway.
Lee called it a “dream” to have a place for people to perform on stage. To help with costs, there will be a golf outing August 3 at Cliff Park Golf Course in Milford that he expects will cover the restoration of the floor.
The theatre, Lee said, will be professional so the shows will have two weeks to get their act together with a dress rehearsal; but, they must get the rights to their play, have their costumes and sets.
Once a stage has been built with lights, it’ll be used outside as well, for shows that’ll be on a nearby maintenance building where a scrim will be projected so the sets can change.
Joy from the arts
The social media manager and copywriter, Michelle Markey said the cabin will be a great addition to the region because the area needs a “community performance space” that’s nearby and offers support for local businesses.
Some aspects of the building just need to be upgraded, such as the light switches because safety is significant Lee said. Ensuring lighting works properly is important, so “we want everything right.”
Markey’s background is in performance arts, but when she learned of the theatre she said, “I knew there was a need” and as a social media manager she wanted to help. Lee’s vision for the theatre she called “phenomenal” because it will fill a “void in our community” since people won’t have to travel to enjoy “arts and culture.” Supporting local artists is important Markey said, because simply “arts bring joy” since people need a “time and a place to express ourselves.”
There will be an outdoors variety show August 22, with the virus guidelines implemented. Jim Manfredonia, who sings Frank Sinatra will highlight the show. Lee said Manfredonia looks and sounds just like the legend. Additional performers are currently being sought and many are applying because “its a community effort” that people will enjoy.
Lee expressed appreciation to many for their help in making the Dingmans Ferry Theatre come to life. The Richard Snyder Foundation has given a grant that has helped with the theatrical aspects needed and Singleton from the Dingmans Ferry - Delaware Township Historical Society has been essential as he has been working on the renovations with Lee.
Work to be done yet
While things are coming together, there is still work to be done and as of yet, a date for the opening of the theatre has not been determined. But, once some things are acquired, Lee said the needed construction “will move fast.” Once the lighting outside is complete, and a background is in place, the “magic of film” will be ready.
Theatre, Lee said is “based on life” because of the expressions to the stories with the audience sharing responses to the moments.
Whether a play or a class, Lee said the production must be “within the arts.” For the 2020 season, no additional shows will occur because this year will be about seeing what the public wants.
Markey said she is most excited to see the “community come together and experience something new,” especially now because of the pandemic. Lee said simply, he is ready to see the Dingmans Ferry Theatre “come to life.”
Now, volunteers are needed for the golf tournament and variety show. Lee said many people have been involved, but more help would be appreciated since there’s many aspects to ensure there’s a good show.
Lee has not yet decided whether he will be on stage, although he has been asked. Markey too, is not sure either.
For the people
It will be “the people” Lee said, that will make the Dingmans Ferry Theatre its own. Markey added that, “When you shine your light into the darkness….The people will see it, and they will follow.”
For more information, Markey can be reached at Dingmansferrytheatre@gmail.com or through Facebook and Instagram.