Local Theatrical Group Takes on a New Role


Director Jeanne Skattum, center, one of the co-founders of the Rochester Repertory Theatre, works with cast members during a rehearsal of the theater’s production of “Avenue Q” in February. On Thursday, the theater bought the building it has been performing in since 2007. Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com

After years as an understudy, a longtime Med City theatrical group is taking on a new role as theater owner.

On Thursday, the Repertory Theatre Co. purchased the 62-year-old building where it has performed in northeast Rochester since 2007.

“We’ve been looking for a permanent space for a while,” said Rep Board Chairman Mark Masbruch. “This is a perfect fit for us.”

The Rep Theatre purchased the two-story building at 103 Seventh St. NE for $410,000 from William Kolb and the Kolb family, who owned it for 13 years. That complex once housed the early version of the Studio Academy Charter School.

Masbruch said several things, including the theater’s history, played into the decision to buy a building.

The Rep Theatre started in 1984 and performed 23 seasons in a leased building at 314 1⁄2 S. Broadway. The group was surprised in 2007 when it was abruptly notified that it had a few weeks to vacate the building, despite having performances scheduled.

While there wasn’t concern that would happen in the Seventh Street building, the theater group didn’t want to ever be put in that position again.

Once negotiations were worked out with the Kolb family, the Rep began raising funds for the building’s purchase. Mayo Clinic provided a matching grant, and the family of longtime supporter, the late Eric Donaldson, also helped with donations among other “numerous generous” donors. F&M Community Bank handled the mortgage.

The purchase comes during a time of growth for the Rep, which sold out almost of all of its recent performances.

“It’s been a very good year,” Masbruch said.

Owning the building opens the door for the non-profit group to work on a Phase Two renovation plan.

The hope is to expand the 90-seat theater space to eventually accommodate 120 seats, he said.

Jeff Kiger  Post-Bulletin  June 26, 2019

Rep’s New Show is a Fine, Fizzy Drink

Grab a drink and settle in — you’re about to make some new friends.

The Savannah Sipping Society,” the first show held in the Rep’s newly purchased theater (don’t worry, it’s the same building they’ve performed in since 2007) is a refreshing treat.

The two-hour show only features a handful of middle-aged characters, each one down-and-out. The ostensible protagonist is uptight career woman Randa (Lisa Shields) who’s just been canned from her architecture job in favor of a much younger man. She’s joined by bubbly and well-meaning Dot (Christine Boos), widowed just after retirement, and the brazen, recently divorced Marlafaye (Taresa Tweeten). Aspiring life coach Jinx (Karen Masbruch) rounds out the group. She wants to prove that the three others can move onward and upward after their roadblocks.

Little binds these women together except loneliness and a hatred of hot yoga. But that’s going to change very quickly.

Though it has a much smaller cast, the feeling of the show is reminiscent of the 1939 film “The Women,” which invited the audience into the rich lives of its all-female cast with no need to present their men’s perspective.

These women, who form a tight bond in the first 20 or so minutes, have plenty to say. As anyone with older female relatives knows, the best talk happens when the men are gone … possibly after the application of alcohol and snacks.

And through a mixture of snappy veranda chat and monologues, the vibrant, animated women do their best to get you invested in their mid-life makeovers. As one character points out, it’s still possible to live life to the fullest after age 40 or 50 … or 60. But time is of the essence.

Tweeten, as the bold, brassy Marlafaye, gets many of the best (often bawdy) one-liners. She deserves props for committing entirely to the character’s slightly unhinged, larger-than-life energy. But Shields, as Randa, sneaks in some subtle physical comedy — keep an eye out for that.

The play hits the emotional highs perfectly, but falters a bit on the dips. Many of the characters suffer even bigger blows over the course of the play, like deaths, health issues, and relationship deterioration.

None of those hits fully register, though — with a laugh and a quip, the script moves on to the next joke. And while it’s enjoyable to poke fun at ageism and sexism, it’s a little jarring to reach for emotional resonance, then for a punchline.

Still, the show is well worth seeing, especially with friends. And grab a drink before or after — the ladies of the Savannah Sipping Society certainly won’t judge.

Anne Halliwell, Post-Bulletin  June 24, 2019

Women of Rep’s ‘Sipping Society’ Learn to Laugh Through Tears

Cast members, from left, Karen Masbruch, Christine Boos, Taresa Tweeten, and Lisa Shields rehearse a scene in the REP Theater production of “The Savannah Sipping Society.” Ken Klotzbach/kklotzbach@postbulletin.com


Cheryl Frarck likes to describe the four characters in the play “The Savannah Sipping Society” as “women the age of fine wine.”

The play, which opens June 21 at the Rochester Repertory Theatre, might best be described as a comedy with tears — and with an occasional glass of fine wine.

“You find yourself laughing, and the next thing they’re tugging at your heart strings,” said Frarck, who is directing the play. When she read the play, Frarck said, “I laughed out loud. I could see the characters.”

The four women in the play are facing challenges in their lives.

Randa, who has lived for her work, suddenly finds herself with a career challenge. Dot is struggling to overcome the early death of her husband. Marlafaye’s husband ran off with a younger woman. Jinx serves as a life coach for the other three, but has huge problems of her own.

The women meet at a yoga class, decide to get together for a sip of wine, and become fast friends.

“They laugh, they fight, they disagree,” Frarck said. “They’re sometimes thoroughly unlikable. They’re real, they’re human. It’s not just a chick flick. These are real people.”

Frarck has cast Rep veterans Christine Boos and Karen Masbruch alongside newcomers Lisa Shields and Taresa Tweeten.

“Each rehearsal is fun,” she said. “It’s a delight to work with them.”

The play is written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, who have written for TV sitcoms.

For Frarck the play, and its message of resiliency and laughing through tears, holds special poignancy.

She recently retired from 45 years of teaching in Kasson-Mantorville. “My first thought in the morning was the kids, and my last thought at night was the kids,” she said. “People asked, ‘What are you going to do?’” That caused her to re-evaluate her life, just about the same time her husband received a difficult cancer diagnosis.

Against that background, Frarck has found particular meaning in a play that she said is not “fluff.

“Celebrate a day at a time,” she said. “If you’re looking down the road, you’re not taking advantage of opportunities staring you in the face.”

That’s a lesson well-learned by the women of the Savannah Sipping Society.

Get Your Tickets for “The Savannah Sipping Society” June 21-30, 7:30pm Here!

Tom Weber, Post-Bulletin   June 13, 2019