A famous tune from the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy is called “Give My Regards to Broadway” by George Gershwin. An enthusiastic group of Clear Space Theater devotees take that song to heart. They also offer a portion of their homes to actors who perform in local shows.
Clear Space Theater became part of Rehoboth in September 2004. The first show, OKLAHOMA!, was in 2005. The theater moved to Baltimore Ave in 2010. The repertory group brings in talent from elsewhere, so it was imperative to find affordable accommodations for actors some of whom spend up to three months living in the area.
Enter the Clear Space volunteer host families! It’s a big commitment but one that reaps huge rewards for those who are happy to pitch in. Hosts are given two season subscriptions for the following season, are invited to the Meet & Greet Mixer before the first summer rehearsal and are recognized in show programs.
The hosting program started in 2015, according to Stephanie Whitcomb, director of Development and Outreach. The number of host families ranges from 12 – 18 annually. The organization’s artistic director David Button matches actors with families.
Host families typically are “Clear Space regulars” such as subscribers, donors, or volunteers for other activities, says Whitcomb. Most, but not all, are couples.
Board member Alfred Willis and his wife Alice learned of the hosting program about six years ago. “We saw it as an opportunity to continue to attract quality performers from outside our region, so we willingly and happily opened our home to them,” he says. “We have hosted eight actors, most for the summer repertoire but have also hosted for the spring and fall productions”.
Danny Feldman is their current actor in residence.
Alice co-chairs the Producers Circle with Liz Leshaine. The group is an “advisory committee of community leaders committed to ensuring a sustainable, year-round theatre company at the beach and also provides arts education for individuals of all ages and outreach to the community.”
Another Producers Circle member, Peter Pizzolongo and his partner Carlos Prugue also host. “When we learned about the summer actor-hosting opportunity, we said Yes!”, commented Pizzolongo. This summer they are hosting Thomas Higgins.
“My experience with Peter and Carlos has been nothing short of amazing. From the second I arrived at their house they have been nothing but kind, generous, and truly have welcomed me with open arms,” says Higgins. He grew up in originally from Wichita, Ks, but currently lives in New Jersey where I attend Rider University as a BFA Musical Theatre major! He was in his first musical while in the third grade and is in all three Clear Space Shows this summer.
“Having a 20-something in the house is energizing for us! Because the actor has the whole 2nd floor of our house–living room, bedroom, & bathroom–we become a gathering place for actors during the July-August season”, noted Pizzolongo.
Host families form strong bond with actors, and even their parents, and hosts closely follow the careers of their actor friends.
“Following the careers of “alums” is a testament to the excellence of Clear Space and our Artistic Director, David Button,” says John Pitchford who is hosting Scott Taylor-Cole this summer with his partner Lenny Stumpf. “Many have gone on to play roles in national tours and Broadway shows. Their first actor/resident Zach Bravo performed as Rum Tum Tugger in the national tour of “Cats” last year and he is currently performing six swing roles in a national tour of “Hamilton.”
“Live theater is very important in the lives of so many residents & visitors,” notes Pizzolongo. “The sense of community is enhanced by the presence of Clear Space Theatre”.
Anyone interested in becoming a Clear Space should email David Button
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland.