The show must go on... and it shall
By Tom Waring
Times Staff Writer

The folks behind The Playmasters Theatre Workshop like to promote a family atmosphere.

Before putting on a show, the non-profit group will clean up any offensive language in the script.

"I think our audiences appreciate that," said Bob Clothier.

Clothier, of Wissinoming, is a past president of the Playmasters and currently sits on the group's board of governors. He also plays a doctor in tonight's readers theater production of the Neil Simon farce Fools.

Readers theater is what the name implies. It's no-frills. The actors read their scripts, rather than memorize their lines. The set and costumes are modest.

For members of the Playmasters, readers theater is valuable. It gives the group new material to work with and allows different people to gain directorial experience.

New actors get to learn the craft without the pressure of memorizing a script, while veteran actors who have been away from the stage for a while can ease back into the profession.

There are two readers theater presentations every summer. On July 11, the Playmasters put on Over the Checkerboard.

The shows are free, and refreshments are served.

"It's a give-back to the community for their support," said Playmasters president Gail Rosen, a Bustleton resident. "We get a full house, generally."

While the readers theater shows are important, the group is best known for producing four shows a year.

This season's schedule is already set.

It opens on Sept. 21 with the Neil Simon classic Barefoot in the Park. That will be followed by Send Me No Flowers, Never Too Late and See How They Run. There are 12 performances of each show.

The Playmasters' 224-seat theater is inside Neshaminy State Park in Bensalem on State Road, three-quarters of a mile north of Street Road.

year-round laughs

Visitors will see comedy, nothing but comedy, year-round.

"It gives people a lift. It's more entertaining," Rosen said.

The Playmasters must be doing something right. The group is celebrating its 50th anniversary and boasts a season subscriber list of 1,400.

Some of the same people have been attending Playmasters shows for three or four decades.

"That's a pretty amazing accomplishment for a community theater to sustain it for that long," said Rosen, entering her fifth year as president.

The Playmasters started putting on shows back in the early 1950s at St. Katherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church in Torresdale.

The group moved to a new facility in 1958 in Andalusia. The barnlike structure, though, burned to the ground in 1979. The blaze was set by a volunteer fireman.

The stage was dark for three years while the Playmasters searched for another theater. The group knew that actress Jean Stapleton built a theater in an upstate park.

So, the Playmasters looked into Neshaminy State Park. With the help of park superintendent Harry Leslie, the group was able to raise the curtain again in 1982.

Fans remained loyal following the three-year hiatus.

"The people came right back," Rosen said.

A core of 25 people make up the Playmasters, while others perform from show to show. The group features a mix of veteran actors while also attracting newcomers every year to keep the company going.

it's new to you

All four shows in the upcoming season are special because they've already been done during the group's first 49 years.

The Playmasters will also celebrate the anniversary by throwing a party and publishing a nostalgia book dedicated to late members.

Clothier, whose wife Joanne is business manager for the Playmasters, has been with the group for 35 years.

That's a few years shorter than vice president Nancy Rementer and Mildred Spieldock, a member of the board of governors whose late husband Buck was the group's longtime president.

Clothier is a busy guy. He's been a teacher at Archbishop Ryan High School for 27 years and a nurse for four years. He also teaches at Holy Family College.

Still, he finds time for the Playmasters because of his love of theater. He loves seeing appreciative audiences year after year.

"They keep coming out," Clothier said.

Ron Green is directing Fools after serving as director of plays for Spotlighters, formerly based at Torresdale's All Saints Episcopal Church.

Greens thinks the Playmasters performers display professionalism while enjoying themselves at the same time.

"Everyone is here to have fun," he said.

Denise Puchalski, who is overseeing the production of Fools, likes the Playmasters because of the people. As she spoke during a recent rehearsal, 20-year-old prop coordinator Christine Fink was helping Puchalski's 3-year-old daughter Mia with her coloring book.

Puchalski, a Mayfair native living in Warminster, has been directing plays at St. Hubert for 16 years. She will direct the school's 60th anniversary production in the fall.

Puchalski works full-time at a consulting firm. She's been with the Playmasters for six years.

She loves every minute of the theater, whether she's selling refreshments or directing a show.

"This is my hobby, but it's really my love," she said.

For more information on The Playmasters, call 215-245-7850 or visit