Everett leads the Everett Theatre into the future
In October, the Everett Theatre is staging Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” Chris Everett is directing the musical and he decided that this production will include backlighting to add a different element to the show. Sondheim wanted actors who could sing, so when Everett oversaw auditions for the musical back in the spring, he took that idea to heart. Since taking over as the executive director of the Everett Theatre in January of 2014, Everett has been taking it in all kinds of new directions, maximizing the Everett’s place in the community.
“We’re working on making this the center of culture and the arts in Middletown,” Everett explained during an interview in August.
It’s certainly an odd bit of synchronicity that the executive director’s surname is the same as the name of the historic theater that he is now charged with guiding. He has put his imprint on the Everett Theatre as he and the board of directors carefully plot the future of the venue while also respecting its history.
The Everett Theatre debuted on Delaware Day, Dec. 7, 1922. It was designed by noted theater architects W.H. Hoffman and Paul J. Henon, Jr. The Philadelphia architectural firm was known for its theater designs—100 theaters in total, 46 of them in Philadelphia alone. From the day it first opened, the Everett was a favorite place for everyone in the area to enjoy new motion pictures or vaudeville stage performances.
Generations of Middletown-area residents enjoyed the special experience of seeing a movie in a distinguished movie house. The Everett Theatre was beloved by many. That fact didn’t always protect it from societal pressures. As televisions and state-of-the-art movie theaters and shopping malls all took away the Everett’s potential audience, it fell on hard times. In 1983, a group of concerned citizens formed the Associated Community Talents, Inc., a nonprofit organization, to purchase the Everett Theatre and restore it. Associated Community Talents, Inc. evolved into The Everett, Inc. That nonprofit operates both the Everett Theatre and The Gibby Center for the Arts.
Two years before Everett became the executive director of the Everett Theatre, Everett served as the music director for a production of “The Wizard of Oz.” He liked the theater so much and saw so much potential for it that when he found out that the Everett Theatre’s board of directors was interested in hiring an executive director for the first time, he was interested in the position.
“When I came here, I quickly found out that there are so many people who are passionate about this place,” he explained.
One of those people who cares deeply about the Everett Theatre now is Everett’s wife, Mary, who helps with productions and also serves on the board of directors for Everett Theatre. She is just one of the many people involved with the Everett who have worked hard to expand the offerings.
“The community and the volunteers are what make this place tick,” he explained.
Everett has increased the number of main productions from four to six, in part because so many people were auditioning for a limited number of parts. The opportunity to perform in the historic Everett Theatre is certainly appealing to many actors in the region.
One of the triumphs of last year was certainly the enormously popular show that followed the Middletown Christmas Parade in November of 2014.
“One thousand people went through here last year for those shows,” Everett explained.
This year, the Everett Theatre will be staging “A Charlie Brown Christmas” after the holiday parade. Each performance will be a half an hour long to maximize the number of people who can enjoy it that evening. “A Charlie Brown Christmas is part of the popular Playground Series, which has ticket prices of just $8, and are all family-friendly.
“It allows families to be introduced to live theater,” Everett explained. “We focus a lot on live theater here. We have ten shows this year, and that’s a lot of shows. But we have so many talented people in this area.”
Everett grew up about a half an hour from Middletown. His diverse work experience includes everything from being a professional actor for several years to working as a financial advisor.
“If there’s a job out there, I’ve probably done it,” he said with a laugh. Those different work experiences prepared him for the unique challenges facing the executive director of a venue like the Everett Theatre. He’s always juggling multiple tasks and continually looking for additional workshops, camps, or programs that might resonate with the community. The calendar of shows and activities is as full as it has ever been.
“We’re still doing all the movies that we do,” Everett explained. In fact, the Everett Theatre is the only theater in Delaware that is showing the Manhattan Short Film Festival starting at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 26. They also show family movies on the first week of the month.
Preparations are already underway for the play, “Miracle on 34th Street. Gail Wagner will serve as the director for this production.
“It’s one of my favorites, and it will be a perfect tim eto get everyone in the holiday spirit.”
There will also be screenings of “Elf” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” as the holidays approach.
After “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” takes place, other upcoming Playground Series shows include “Pinkalicious” in March 2016 and “Alice in Wonderland” in May 2016. When “Pinkalicious” is presented, there will be shows during the day for local school students.
“We’re very proud of the work that we’re doing here,” Everett said. “We’re doing things that will increase the visibility of the Everett Theatre, and we’re trying to do those things to the best of our ability. One of our main goals is to be more involved in the community. We are definitely community oriented. That’s one of the reasons why we do more live theater.”
To purchase tickets or for more information about upcoming shows, check out the Everett Theatre’s Facebook page or visit www.everetttheatre.com.