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Fall Theater, Dance Class Schedule

September 09, 2012 at 5:05 PM


Heritage Players prepare for fall theater, dance class schedule

September 6, 2012 5:16 am By Margaret Smykla

Passion as much as artistry fuels the four instructors of the upcoming 10-week dance, acting and musical theater classes for children and adults being offered by the Heritage Players community theater group in Bethel Park.

When Linda Matthews, 61, went into cardiac arrest two years ago, doctors told her they would look for a new heart. But the Baldwin Borough dancer, choreographer, director and former owner of Linda Marie Dance Studio, would have none of it, opting instead for an upgraded defibrillator.

"I didn't want to lie there for months or years waiting for a heart. Those tap shoes were going back on," said the instructor for five tap classes.

Tyson Sears, 25, was headed to medical school when he enrolled in Pittsburgh Filmmakers classes 18 months ago and has been here ever since.

"Once I started taking classes, there was no going back. No matter how frustrating, I couldn't wait to do it again. This is why I get out of bed every day," said the Pleasant Hills man, who will teach Acting for the Camera.

Weekly classes are one hour long, except for Acting for the Camera, which is two hours. They will meet in the Schoolhouse Arts Center, 2600 South Park Road, Bethel Park, beginning the week of Sept. 23. The cost for the 10 weeks ranges from $50 to $150.

While the instructors are all members of the Heritage Players, the classes are open to the public.

Lyrical dance and musical theater dance instructor Jennifer Puskar, 35, studied dance and musical theater at the Juilliard School, and danced in "Hello, Dolly!" on Broadway. She and her husband, Jack, 38, also act in group productions.

The South Park woman said she hopes enrollees come to treasure dance as she does -- with fervor.

"Dance is a gift. Even if your body won't allow you to do it as you get older, you still have the appreciation of music and dance," she said.

Until now, the classes were administered through the borough's Recreation Department, with the Heritage Players providing the instructors.

This will be the first time the theater troupe is offering its own classes.

"We wanted to be in control of content and scheduling," the group's president, Jason Stiteler, said. He will teach Acting Out and Fundamentals of Acting.

"We wanted to open classes to as many people as possible. ... Classes are designed for beginners, and instructors will try to tailor to skill levels," he said.

"We are hoping to be able to cover expenses; if we generate a little extra money we will have enough to keep holding them," he added.

The Pleasant Hills man, 33, who prefers to stay behind the curtain, has been a director and stage manager for local theater. For five years, he ran the children's summer theater for the Seton Pioneers in Brookline.

Heritage Players took root in 1962 when a group of Bethel Park residents formed a performance troupe. In the late 1970s, the group moved to Carnegie as Stage 62.

In 1997, community theater returned to Bethel Park with the group dubbed the Heritage Players and a home venue of the Schoolhouse Arts Center. In 1999, having outgrown its small theater space, it moved to the new Bethel Park Community Center, becoming the municipality's community theater. Since then, the Heritage Players have performed rent free in the community center. However, beginning with "The Sound of Music" to be staged Oct. 19-28, the group will be charged a fee.

For that reason, Mr. Stiteler is focused on locating a new space for shows and technical rehearsals for the nonprofit organization with an annual budget of $15,000.

Regardless of venue, the show must go on for the roughly 45 members.

"Everyone's there for the same purpose: to put on good productions and enrich people through the arts," Mr. Sears said.

For Ms. Matthews, her love of life and of performance frequently intertwine, as when she choreographed "Once Upon a Mattress" a year after her heart scare.

"I cried when I walked on stage. I was overwhelmed because I made it," she said.

Registration for classes is required by Wednesday. Visit: to register, or for more information on the Heritage Players and for upcoming shows.

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:
First Published September 6, 2012 5:16 am

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Category: Press