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Two's Company

Two Springfield theater groups are converging at Greenspring Village Retirement Community, as the Springfield Community Theater (SCT) joins forces with the Greenspring Players for a performance of Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys" in the fall.

While the Greenspring Players, comprised mostly of Greenspring Village residents, is a relatively new theater group, the more established SCT has been searching for a well-equipped performance venue for years, so the two are converging. They will put on more shows throughout their season. Anita Gardner at the SCT said the one-year trial period is a win-win situation.

"The Greenspring group is two or three years old. We were instrumental in forming that group," said Gardner. "We have an agreement to have the two groups remain separate. I think it will be beneficial both ways."

Pam McKinley, Greenspring marketing representative, works with the Greenspring Players at every production, trying to give the group more exposure.

"When we first opened the theater, they did a performance of 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.' We're always trying to get more people in the production," McKinley said. The Greenspring Players usually have from 25 to 30 people involved in productions.

The SCT has searched for a permanent home for years, finding a temporary one at the Immanuel United Methodist Church in Annandale. However, that stage is not of professional quality, and the seating is limited. The troupe looked at other possibilities, including a permanent performing arts venue in Springfield. But the group had limited funds with which to work. The Greenspring Players have a theater but are lacking in other areas.

Malcom Searle, the Greenspring Players managing director, is optimistic. "I would think in some fashion, we would work with them more in the foreseeable future," he said.

The partnership will also give the Greenspring Players greater exposure in Springfield.

"They want to be part of the greater community," McKinley said.

Frank Pitts has been with SCT since 1960 when it was called the Springfield Footlighters. He participated in the group's ongoing search for a suitable stage.

"We've been putting on shows in some challenging situations," Pitts said. One such situation was at St. Christopher's Church, which served as SCT's home stage until it was renovated. The company then moved to Immanuel, which had no stage.

Greenspring might provide the solution to SCT's wandering, Pitts said.

"The theater [SCT] has experience mounting productions," Pitts said. "It's a good match in that sense."

THE PLAYERS' last performance at Greenspring was "Spider's Web" in early June, and Elizabeth Garcia, a child, played "Pipa."

"It was sold out," said McKinley.

With the show in the fall, it is in the planning stage now but will start tryouts and rehearsals soon. The SCT is still planning one performance of "Love Letters" at Immanuel in November as a fund-raiser. "Love Letters," which is a two-person show, was also the Greenspring Players' very first play a few years ago.

"We are going to do most of our rehearsals at Greenspring," Gardner said, but hesitated to say all of SCT's efforts will take place there.

"We don't know exactly how it's going to work at Greenspring, so we're not letting go of Immanuel completely," Gardner said. "For the next year, we'll be at both places."

In March and April 2005, SCT will present "The Dining Room" by A.R. Gurney at Greenspring, but the rehearsals will be at Immanuel. The remaining performances for the year have not been scheduled yet.