Town and Country Players Reviews

Town and Country Players gets good press.

Town and Country Players was voted 1st Place in the Theatre Group by the Intelligencer Record Readers. We received "The Best of Bucks Mont Reader's Choice" awards in 1997, 1998, and 1999.

The Doylestown Patriot's Spring 2000 issue of Destination Doylestown had the following article on Town and Country Players.

Looking for great theater in a great location?

Well then, check out Town and Country Players for the ultimate experience!

Tucked away, not too far off of Route 263 in Buckingham, lies a centuries-old red barn revered as a second home by a group of approximately 80 diverse people. One common thread, though, unites these folks living in areas all across the Delaware Valley: Love of the theater.

This group of varied individuals, hailing from all walks of life, is officially known as the Town and Country Players and the barn serves as their playhouse. The group rented the working barn that dates back to 1767 and converted it into a theater in 1957. Then, a group of 19 motivated individuals devoted 10 years to attempting to revive community theater during the aftermath of World War II ultimately leading the crew to performance stints at Doylestown Borough School and Lenape Junior High School, until they finally made the barn their permanent theatrical home.

Once Town and Country Players had a home base for their operations, albeit one that has and still does require continued renovation (i.e. improved wiring, sound and lighting, and air conditioning) and remodeling (i.e. stadium-type ramped seating and a kitchen) the spirit of the group's fellowship continued to expand. The barn theater was initially rented and supported solely through donations - and the blood, sweat and tears of its membership, as it still is today. Nevertheless, the group eventually opted to purchase the barn in 1962, viewing it as an investment in the future of their dream.

With the expansion of the theater, the theatrical season grew as well, offering five productions annually rather than three. Today there are five shows, each performed 12 times per year. Add to that the children's theater's two shows, July and October, performed three times each, and private performances (more often than not playing for a packed house of 160 seats) and one can see why the operation is viewed as much more than an enthusiastic enterprise. It's a business, plain and simple, with no paid employees. Self-satisfaction and camaraderie is the only payment ever exchanged.

That's enough for group members like Lynne Anne Donchez, proprietor of L.A.D. & Co; Hairdressers of Distinction located in Doylestown, who handles some production and publicity, while acting as hair and make-up designer and costume coordinator for T&C Players. Donchez's father, Frank, a Central Bucks High School English teacher, definitely spawned her involvement with the group, which has lasted for almost 40 years.

"I think that probably for all of us involved for so many years, no matter how bad things get and how much controversy there is, it's like we are family. We have been together at this barn ... it's like an eternal clubhouse. So, we keep coming back," Donchez said as she reflected upon her years with the group.

A member since 1978, Town and Country Players' second-term president and restoration committee chairman, Joe Spadafora, joined the group looking for the opportunity to act.

What he found, though, was more like a lifelong commitment, a compelling reason to keep coming back to the T&C Players, despite the many theatrical avenues he explored and the time he chose to set aside for his family.

"The building offers a unique opportunity to interact with the audience. I enjoy doing it because you are on stage wherever you go - there, at the barn, you really do have a captive audience," he said. "My love of the building, the mystique of the building, is important to me, too. I have such a lot to do there - I couldn't walk away if I wanted to," he laughed.

Both Donchez and Spadafora mentioned another significant element of the success of the group as being the devotion of a vast following of volunteers: Walter Delle, a Gardenville costume designer, whose beautiful sketches have "been seen all over"; Catherine Moyer, a Doylestown member involved with costume design and construction, who has worked professionally in New York; Robert and Jean Gendall, the founding patrons; David Swartz, an early member and past president; Charlie DeMett, a widely-known music director; and Mike Moeller, a jack-of-all-trades type, director, choreographer, costume and set designer.

Perhaps, Bob Margolies, in the opinion of several members, best exemplifies the intense "love" many "players" have for the building - not just their association with the T&C Players group. Margolies is heralded for the countless hours he spent manicuring the building and grounds, ensuring the barn and its players always offered the public the very best.

"He was the best support person. His doing things for the group was truly a 'labor of love,'" remembered Spadafora. As an ongoing testament to Margolies vision, Spadafora too, has made renovation, enhancement and remodeling top priority, vowing to underscore those areas of focus as part of daily operations.

People such as these are needed to coordinate and operate all facets of the extremely successful, high maintenance, non-profit organization.

Other than the obvious income incurred from ticket sales, steadfast patrons, private donors, grants, an annual spring flea market, all season-long raffles and donations of raffle items are what keeps the organization going strong, holding unwaveringly to their position as a mainstay in the community.

"We are always looking for more things to do to raise funds and we have become more conscious of the public," advised Spadafora. "We love them, (the public) without them we wouldn't exist."

Pat Achilles, a Doylestown resident and 20-year member, who grew up in Warminster, just as Spadafora did, does publicity, paints sets and occasionally acts for the group, is proud of the T&C Players Benefit Show program. For a flat fee private organizations can arrange for a weeknight performance held exclusively for their own group. Ticket prices are then determined by the host organization and, therefore, all proceeds go to them.

"Through this we have given a lot of money to a lot of organizations," she commented.

"Everyone helps when we do a show. The young are energetic. The old are tried and true. The others are right down the middle to keep things going," said Donchez.

"When the lights go up all they want to do is one thing - to entertain Bucks County."

For information on Town and Country Players, call the box office at 215-348-7566.

- Lorraine Sciuto-Ballasy