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Batavia Players

Four friends, multiple stories, in Four the Record at Main St. 56 Theater this weekend

By Howard B. Owens
batavia players four the record
Sarah Hill
Photo by Howard Owens

Four friends who have a lot to say, and they say it through song -- sharing their stories, their ups and their downs, and their secrets -- is the motif that makes Four the Record, a cabaret show, an entertaining show at Main St. 56 Theater this weekend.

The four-person cast features four Harvie Award winners: Deacon Smith, Jocelyn Coburn (not available for photos), Sarah Hill and Sophie Houseman.

The show opens on Friday at 7:30 p.m., with performances on Saturday at 7:30 and on Sunday at 2 p.m.

To purchase tickets, click HERE.

batavia players four the record
Sarah Hill and Deacon Smith.
Photo by Howard Owens
batavia players four the record
Sophie Houseman
Photo by Howard Owens
batavia players four the record
Sarah Hill 
Photo by Howard Owens
batavia players four the record
Deacon Smith
Photo by Howard Owens
batavia players four the record
Sophie Houseman
Photo by Howard Owens
batavia players four the record
Sophie Houseman
Photo by Howard Owens

'King John' brings the French connection to stage this weekend

By Joanne Beck
king john batavia players 2024
Anthony Haitz, as King John, acknowledges The Bastard, played by Richard Ferris, as King John's mother, Elinor or Aquitane, played by Dorothy Gerhart, looks on.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Audiences will have an opportunity to watch a French connection this weekend.

Not the one with big city narcotics detectives investigating a heroin smuggling ring, but rather, the royal Shakespearean drama of “King John,” about the difficulties of who the lead character was and that he usurped the throne, Director E. Jane Burk says.

“One of the other characters that is in this play, his name is Arthur, he is John's nephew, he was the son of John's older brother, Jeffrey, who died. John took the throne before Arthur could ascend to it; he actually usurped the throne from his nephew Arthur. So much of the play revolves around a French connection. That's why we have (on the banners at the back of the stage) English lions on one side, and we have French fleur-de-lis on the other side,” Burk said during rehearsal Tuesday. “There is a significant threat of war because the French segment, the French king, King Philip, wants to put John's nephew Arthur on the English throne. So it all revolves around the situation that it was very militaristic. You could almost say contemporary in terms of the different factions that were trying to come to power.”

Batavia Players will present Shakespeare in Springtime’s “King John” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Main St. 56 Theater in Batavia City Centre.

Playwright William Shakespeare penned a significant number of plays that were histories about notables such as Richard the Third and Henry the Eighth, and this lesser known figure, King John, Burk said. 

“It is not frequently performed anywhere,” she said. “And it’s interesting because, actually, this particular play is all in verse. It’s all poetry; it’s not prose, it’s not normal, conversation-type stuff.”

A passage from King John’s character states:  

O cousin, thou art come to set mine eye.

The tackle of my heart is cracked and burnt,

And all the shrouds wherewith my life should sail

Are turnèd to one thread, one little hair.

My heart hath one poor string to stay it by,

Which holds but till thy news be utterèd,

And then all this thou seest is but a clod

And module of confounded royalty.

The time period is 1216, and the play is paying homage to the Magna Carta, which King John signed in 1215, a year before his death at 49, Burk said. The cast quickly became familiar with the setting, the lines and the demands of such a production, and has fulfilled its responsibilities with aplomb, she said.

Auditions were in mid-January, everyone received their scripts and immediately began to learn their lines after being cast for roles, and, because another show was happening during a portion of February, rehearsals didn’t even begin until later in the month.  

“And this is only March 19. And kudos to the cast. I give them so much credit. They have done an extraordinary job of creating this place that is not Western New York. That is not Batavia. That does not sound anything like the way we speak. I have French people that are speaking with French accents,” she said. “We have worked hard on this. They have learned their lines, their scripts, word for word. If you were to sit right now — I'm not exaggerating — if you were to sit and actually listen to what they are saying, watching but listening, and reading the script as you're going along, you will see that it’s word for word. It is extraordinary. That's exceptionally difficult. You cannot take away from the fact that they have given heart and soul to making this happen.”

And who are “they?” By all other accounts, they are ordinary people, volunteers in the world of community theater with a passion for the arts, people who have jobs, work for a living, tend to families, she said, and dedicate many hours to memorizing their lines and create the character they will eventually bring to life up on stage. 

The premise of “King John” is that he goes to war against the French after claiming that his nephew should be king instead. John has conflict with the church, orders his nephew's death, and turns the nobles against himself. In the end, John dies after a monk poisons him, the French retreat and his own son becomes king.

Burk isn’t necessarily looking to convert the masses onto Shakespeare; however, she’s hoping that folks are willing to give it a try.

“My idea is that, on some level, most of the people that will come to see the show probably have not had any sort of prior experience with Shakespeare,” she said. “But what we hope is that if we can make a difference in the life of one person if we can make the lightbulbs click on for one person, and they understand and discover what Shakespeare is all about, then we’ve succeeded. That’s what it’s all about.”

Tickets are $22 adults, $20 students and seniors online and $24 adults, $22 students and seniors for cash at the door.

king john batavia players 2024
Anthony Haitz as King John
Photo by Howard Owens.
king john batavia players 2024
James Barcomb as the King of France, King Phillip.
Photo by Howard Owens
king john batavia players 2024
Richard Ferris as The Bastard
Photo by Howard Owens
king john batavia players 2024
Stephen VanValkenburg, as Robert Faulconbridge, Patrick Burk, as Sheriff, and Richard Ferris, as The Bastard.
Photo by Howard Owens.
king john batavia players 2024
Anthony Haitz as King John and Stephen VanValkenburg as Robert Faulconbridge
Photo by Howard Owens
king john batavia players 2024
Anthony Haitz as King John
Photo by Howard Owens
king john batavia players 2024
Heather Ferris as Lady Faulconbridge.
Photo by Howard Owens
king john batavia players 2024
king john batavia players 2024
James Barcomb and King Phillip of France, Kristin Gella as Lady Constance, and Sophie Crandall as Prince Arthur.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Batavia Players presents Love Lines this weekend

By Staff Writer
Stephen Van Valkenburg, in Love Lines at Main St. 56 Theater.
Submitted photo.

Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoon, theater goers can take a special Valentine's moment to explore along with Batavia Players the nuances of love.

The play "Love Lines" was written by Patrick D. Burk, who is also the director of the production, and Vincent M. Gauteri.

The production is described as "a celebration of love and how people fall in love currently or in the past; there are special moments from real people and real-life situations."

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and  2 p.m. on Sunday, at the Main St. 56 Theater in Batavia City Centre.

For more information or tickets, visit

Submitted photos.

Amanda Melissa Ellman-Taylor
steve Coburn
Steve Coburn

2023 Harvie Award recipients announced

By Joanne Beck

This weekend's 2024 Harvie Awards gala recognized many deserving recipients from the past year's Batavia Players shows, organizers said, including:


Steven Coburn, 12 Angry Jurors


Emily Crawford, Antony & Cleopatra


Elijah Van Epps, Antony & Cleopatra


Dorothy Gerhart, One Act Plays, The Verbatim


Anthony Haitz, 12 Angry Jurors


Mary Eckstein, 12 Angry Jurors


Phil Berry, The Drowsy Chaperone


Sarah Hill, Opposites Attract, I'll Be Here


Kristin Gelia, The Drowsy Chaperone


Qasim Huzair, The Drowsy Chaperone


Sophie Houseman, The Drowsy Chaperone


Anthony Haitz, The Drowsy Chaperone


Samantha Jane Balbi, Cry Baby


Peyton Woeller, Cry Baby


Adam Jursted, Cry Baby


Watch Your Ass, Cry Baby


Deacon Smith, Hallelujah, A Christmas Carol


James Barcomb, 12 Angry Jurors


Mick Larson


McCabe Enterprises


Batavia Downs Gaming


Tom Clark

Starting here, starting now: Harvie nominations are plentiful from packed 2023 lineup

By Joanne Beck
Teressa Hirsch
One of the angriest of the "12 Angry Jurors," Teressa Hirsch earned a nomination for Lead Actress in a Play for her unflinching character.
File Photo by Howard Owens

As another year begins to fade away in the hopefulness of a new one, there’s still room for a look back at the best and brightest theatrical performances as the Batavia Players present the 2024 Gala: Starting Here, Starting Now!

The premise is simple enough. Pat Burk says: it’s a new year, the first time for the awards show in a brand new theater, and with all but three of a dozen new shows negotiated for the 2024 season.

“Starting Here, Starting Now is a song written for a musical, it’s not really well known, but it’s about, this is the beginning of our new year, it’s about things being new. It’s just a nice kind of event, and people can see the seating and the style in the theater and how things are presented there. And it’s just kind of a cool event,” Burk said during an interview with The Batavian. “We’re pretty close to being completed, and all of our shows will be presented in the same venue with all new equipment. It’s just going to be a great year for us.”

Set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Main St. 56 Theater in downtown Batavia, the gala is a party celebration of the Players’ “very successful 2023 season” with hors d’oeuvres, refreshments, basket raffles, select performances and — drum roll, please — a presentation of the 2023 Harvie Awards to a slate of deserving performers in this past year’s lineup of shows.

There will be several recap performances and highlights of plays and musicals from the past season, along with a discussion about why people were nominated and ultimately chosen for each award. 

Directors from each of the shows submitted nominations, and four additional directors contributed reviews for the final selections, Burk said. Beyond a nod of recognition for the talent up on stage is a moment to pause and reflect and reminisce about the seven musicals and four play productions put forth in a span of 12 months, he said. 

This will be the first time since COVID — will it ever be forgotten? — for a full-blown awards show. The last one was for the 2019 awards, and it was right smack in the middle of a St. Patrick’s holiday that health department officials came in to shut down the event on those first bleak days of the pandemic, he said.

“And they came in nicely, and we said, ‘Can we at least finish, or can we get the food out of here?’ And they said we had to close up. I remember they allowed us to do takeout containers for the corned beef and cabbage,” he said. 

Does that feel like a million years ago now, or yesterday?

“A million years ago, because we were also in the process of just starting the demolition of the new theater. And that literally started that January 1, and we were just so looking forward to, within two years, we’d be out of Harvester and into our new theater. And obviously, none of that happened,” he said. “So, we’re in the new theater … it’s so deserved. It’s been a long time coming.”

And in that vein, the theater is starting here, starting now, with its 2024 season that kicks off with a concert, “Pushin’ Time,” with duo Eric Carlin and Deanna Spiotta Carlin on Jan. 19. Other confirmed shows include “The Little Mermaid Jr.," “Pygmalion,” and one that Burk is thrilled to have secured for May, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita.”

As for the remainder of the lineup, that will be revealed, except for those three shows still in negotiations, during this weekend's gala. Attendees may want to spiff up for the affair if they like and absorb a medley of productions while supporting the arts and artists who make it happen.

Admission is a $30 donation. Advance ticket purchases are encouraged at

Award nominations went to the following:

Lead actor in a play

Stephen VanValkenburg - Almost Maine

Steven Coburn - Antony & Cleopatra

Steven Coburn - 12 Angry Jurors

Anthony Haitz - One Act Plays/The Bear

Seth Coburn - One Act Plays/Mr. Icky

Lead actress in a play

Jacqueline Morrison - Almost Maine

Emily Crawford - Antony & Cleopatra

Teressa Hirsch - 12 Angry Jurors

Teressa Hirsch - One act plays/Verbatim

Supporting actor in a play

Elijah Van Epps - Almost Maine

Shaun Coburn - Almost Maine

Elijah Van Epps - Antony & Cleopatra

James Barcomb - 12 Angry Jurors

James Barcomb - One act plays/The Bear

Supporting actress in a play

Kendra Morrison - Almost Maine

Cynthia Nelson - Almost Maine

Cynthia Nelson - Antony & Cleopatra

Dorothy Gerhart - 12 Angry Jurors

Dorothy Gerhart - One act plays/Verbatim

Featured actor in a play

Richard Ferris - Almost Maine

Lawrence Rowswell - Antony & Cleopatra

James Barcomb - Antony & Cleopatra

Anthony Haitz - 12 Angry Jurors

Shakeem Walcott - One act plays/Mr. Icky

Featured actress in a play

Sophie Houseman - Almost Maine

Maia Zerillo - Almost Maine

Erin Stamp - Antony & Cleopatra

Shellene Bailey - Antony & Cleopatra

Mary Eckstein - 12 Angry Jurors

Sophie Crandall - One act plays/Mr. Icky

Leading male performance in a musical

Marc Sapareto - Opposites Attract

Phil Berry - Drowsy Chaperone

Marc Sapareto - Do Not Sing List

Marc Sapareto - Cry Baby

Kevin Partridge - A Christmas Carol

Leading female performance in a musical

Sarah Hill - Opposites Attract

Kristin Gelia - Drowsy Chaperone

Maia Zerillo - Do Not Sing List

Maia Zerillo - Cry Baby

Jennifer Dunn - A Christmas Carol

Supporting male performance in a musical

Seth Coburn - Opposites Attract

Sam Bowman - Drowsy Chaperone

Qasim Huzair - Drowsy Chaperone

Deacon Smith - Do Not Sing List

Deacon Smith - Cry Baby

Andy Hamm - A Christmas Carol

Supporting female performance in a musical

Jocelyn Coburn - Opposites Attract

Sophie Houseman - Drowsy Chaperone

Kendra Morrison - Do Not Sing List

Paige Sikorski - Cry Baby

Rose Mosher - Cry Baby

Amanda Melissa Taylor - A Christmas Carol

Featured male performance in a musical

Cass Dzielski - Opposites Attract

Anthony Haitz - Drowsy Chaperone

Steven Coburn - Drowsy Chaperone

Elijah Van Epps - Do Not Sing List

Paul Daniszewski - Cry Baby

William Zerillo - A Christmas Carol

Featured female performance in a musical

Teressa Hirsch - Opposites Attract

Amy-Catherine - Cunningham Drowsy Chaperone

Beth Knopf - Drowsy Chaperone

Kristin Gelia - Do Not Sing List

Samantha Jane Balbi -Cry Baby

Kylea Wright - Cry Baby

Dorothy Gerhart - A Christmas Carol

Youth performance

Peyton Woeller -Do Not Sing List

Quinn Boardman - All Shook Up

Peyton Sikorski - All Shook Up

Peyton Woeller - Cry Baby

Sophie Crandall - A Christmas Carol

Lilah Mordell - A Christmas Carol

Child performance

Annalie Crandall - All Shook Up

Sylar Kuenzi - All Shook Up

Adam Jursted - Cry Baby

Xavier Deschamps - A Christmas Carol

Liam Taylor - A Christmas Carol

Charlotte Reddin - A Christmas Carol

Best musical performance ensemble

Move Towards the Darkness - Opposites Attract

I Do, I Do in the Sky - Drowsy Chaperone

Cell Block Tango -Do Not Sing List

You Bet Your Ass - Cry Baby

In December - A Christmas Carol

Best musical performance solo

Jacqueline Morrison - Three Days Without Breathing/Opposites Attract

Sophie Houseman - As We Stumble Along/Drowsy Chaperone

Cass Dzielski - Run Away With Me/Do Not Sing List

Paige Sikorski - Screwloose/Cry Baby

Deacon Smith - Hallelujah/A Christmas Carol

Deacon Smith Cry Baby
Deacon Smith has been nominated for Supporting Male Performance in a Musical for his role in "Cry Baby."
File Photo by Howard Owens
Cry Baby with Peyton Woeller
"Do Not Sing List " featured Peyton Woeller, front in plaid, who has been nominated for the Youth Performance category for his role. 
File Photo by Nick Serrata
Steven Coburn, nominated in 12 Angry Jurors.
Photo by Howard Owens.
The Bear Batavia Players
James Barcomb, nominated in One Act Plays/The Bear.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Batavia Players stage ‘A Christmas Carol’ this weekend

By Howard B. Owens
batavia players a christmas carole

Opening at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, the Batavia Players bring to life Scrooge and his ghosts in a performance of Charles Dickens's “A Christmas Carol” at Main St. 56 Theater in Batavia.

There are also performances on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets are $18 for adults and $16 for seniors.

The musical is directed by Patrick Burk, with music directed by Kathy White.

Photos by Howard Owens

batavia players a christmas carole
batavia players a christmas carole
batavia players a christmas carole
batavia players a christmas carole
batavia players a christmas carole
batavia players a christmas carole
batavia players a christmas carole

Batavia Players present three one-act plays Friday to Sunday

By Howard B. Owens
Mr. Icky cast batavia players
The cast of the one-act play, Mr. Icky by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Photo by Howard Owens.

This month's night (or afternoon) of theater at Main St. 56 Theater at Batavia City Centre consists of three one-act plays performed by members of Batavia Players. 

The plays are:

  • "The Bear," by Anton Chekov
  • "Mr. Icky," by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • "Verbatim," by Albi Gorn

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors.

The Mr. Icky Cast:

  • Mr. Icky, Seth Coburn
  • Divine, Maia Zerillo
  • Peter, Deacon Smith
  • Ulsa, Sophie Crandall
  • Charles, Lilah Mordell

Other characters played by:

  • Joel Coburn
  • Leigh LeFevre
  • Jeriko Suzette
  • Shakeem Walcott
  • Jazz Wessell
Mr. Icky Batavia Players
Scene from Mr. Icky.
Photo by Howard Owens
Mr. Icky Batavia Players
Scene from Mr. Icky.
Photo by Howard Owens
Mr. Icky Batavia Players
Scene from Mr. Icky.
Photo by Howard Owens
The Bear Batavia Players
Scene from The Bear
Photo by Howard Owens

The cast of The Bear:

  • Anthony Haitz as Grigory Stepanovitch Smirnov
  • Angelina Celej as Elena Ivanovna Popova
  • James Barcomb as Luka
The Bear Batavia Players
Scene from The Bear
Photo by Howard Owens
Verbatim Batavia Players
Scene from Verbatim
Photo by Howard Owens

The cast of Verbatim:

  • Marlene, Teressa Hirsch
  • Reese, Steve Coburn
  • Andy, Dorothy Gerhart
Verbatim Batavia Players
Scene from Verbatim
Photo by Howard Owens

Batavia Players stage timeless study in human conflict, 12 Angry Jurors

By Howard B. Owens
Teressa Hirsch, playing Juror #7, doesn't hide her anger after Juror #8 refuses to join the other 11 jurors for a quick unanimous guilty verdict in the Batavia Players presentation of 12 Angry Jurors.
Photo by Howard Owens.

A simple plot -- 12 ordinary people deliberating the guilt or innocence of a young man accused of murder -- became a riveting drama on Sept. 20, 1954, when it first aired on CBS's Studio One.

In the 1950s, women couldn't serve on juries, so the title was to the point: 12 Angry Men.

A lot has changed over the past seven decades. Women have been able, for example, to serve on juries for decades, so now the play is called 12 Angry Jurors (12 Angry Men was also an award-winning movie in 1957 starring Henry Fonda). 

And a lot hasn't changed.  Not all is equal just yet. Society is still beset by prejudices, and people still have biases and personal histories that color their views of events.

So juries can still sometimes find it hard to agree on a verdict.

That's why the play originally written by Reginald Rose is still performed all over the country, is taught in schools, and is the subject of scholarship.

"It's still relevant," said Director Kristy Walter. "It's like one of those timeless plays that speaks to justice, it speaks to humanity, it speaks to people's prejudices and biases. And that's, I think, what makes it so compelling because when you watch the play, you see yourself in those characters. So I think that's what makes it worth seeing."

The first Batavia Players performance is at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, followed by 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The play begins with an off-stage charge from a judge in a murder trial: The jury must reach a unanimous verdict.

Once in the jury room, Juror #7 (the jurors are only identified by their numbers until the close of the play), played by Teressa Hirsch, says, “Yeah, lets vote. Who knows, maybe we can all just go home.”

She has someplace else to be, she reveals.

And the vote? It's 11-1. Not unanimous.

The lone holdout, Juror #8, played by Steven Coburn, confesses, “It's not easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.”

The jury decides it's up to them to convince him why they are right -- that the young man on trial stabbed his abusive father and killed him.  A guilty verdict would send the kid, from an impoverished background, to the electric chair.

The disagreements erupt for the jurors to confront their own morals and values, their own histories and beliefs.

You can probably guess the resolution -- if you've never caught the movie on late-night TV -- or better, no matter how well you know the story, you can join Batavia Players at 56 Main Theater this weekend to see how it plays out. The play holds up over decades of changing cultural norms and multiple viewings.

Photo by Howard Owens.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Steven Coburn, as Juror #8, cast the lone "not guilty" vote at the start of Batavia Players production of 12 Angry Jurors.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Weekend cabaret breaks the 'taboos' with full slate of Broadway

By Joanne Beck
Batavia Players cabaret
Kendra Morrison, Peyton Woeller, Marc Sapareto, Maia Zerillo, Seth Coburn, Rylee Lippens and Deacon Smith get ready for a cabaret at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Main St. 56 Theater, Batavia.
Photo by Nick Serrata.

It’s perhaps an unusual title, emphasizing Broadway favorites with a title of "Do Not Sing List, and the “Not” has a red slash through it. So are these to be sung or not?

Director Sophie Houseman, a seemingly jack-of-all-trades when it comes to theater according to her resume, explains the mystic cabaret title of this weekend’s show.

“The ‘Do Not Sing List’ of musical theater is something that I have heard talked about much too frequently during my college education and my continuing path through community and semi-professional theater,” she said. “It is a list that I have always battled with when auditioning myself. Technically, the list is full of songs that agents, directors and other top decision-makers would advise against auditioning with.”

She listed examples of songs that boast about the performer, include profanity, sexual innuendo, rope in one or more people for a duet or ensemble, songs that are “massively over-performed, under-rated, tied to a certain demographic or songs that have such a strong connection to a particularly famous performance that you are unlikely to measure up.”

Ah, that makes the title make a little more sense. The show goes on at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Main St. 56 Theater at Batavia City Centre, Batavia. 

Batavia Players will present the cabaret showcase of the “most memorable melodies from your favorite Broadway shows, new and old, and some fantastic songs you are perhaps yet to hear.” 

Houseman is a versatile participant, with a portfolio listing her as a performer, artistic staff, teacher, actor, dancer, singer, director and musical director, choreographer, music teacher, and vocal coach.

The mezzo-soprano said that, despite all of the pitfalls of the typical audition guidelines for songs, for this weekend’s cabaret, “we are fighting against many of these taboos.”  

“We are tackling the notion that you cannot perform a song if 128 other people are singing it in the same audition room and choosing to express an emotion and tell a story that we think is important, regardless of any connotation attached to it,” she said. “These performers have really taken these songs and used this opportunity to make them different, to stand out from the crowd and really make everyone question why they shouldn’t be performed. They have been dedicated, honest and, frankly, inspirational in their approaches to the material and in their final performances. I thank them deeply for that.”

Furthermore, she said, the troupe of vocalists is taking this two-night opportunity to perform songs  “we think should be banned from the banned list.”

Clever, though, that she didn’t answer the question of what songs would actually be included in the show. To find out, tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors, and may be purchased at

Photos by Nick Serrata.

Kristin Celia
Kristin Gelia
Kristin Celia, Jacqueline Morrison, Jessica Brandt
Kristin Gelia, Jacqueline Morrison and Jessica Brandt
Batavia Players cabaret

After more than 50 years of wandering around the community, Batavia Players have a place to call home again

By Howard B. Owens
batavia players main st. 56 opening night
The first patrons enter the new Main St. 56 Theater in City Center, Downtown Batavia,, on Friday, for the new theater's first show, Cry Baby, The Musical.
Photo by Howard Owens.

A wandering band of nomadic thespians has finally arrived home.

For the first time since the late 1960s, when the troupe abandoned the dilapidated Playhouse at Horseshoe Lake, the Batavia Players has a theater to call its own.

The Players staged its first show on Friday night at the new Main St. 56 Theater in City Centre.

Norm Argulsky, board secretary, prop manager, and house manager, said the opening of the new theater is a dream fulfilled for the entire group.

"At long last, we are finally in a theater that we really want to be in," Argulsky said as patrons filled the lobby waiting to enter the first performance of Cry Baby, The Musical, performed by members of the Summer Youth Theater. "This is it for pretty good Players. We're going to be here permanently. We have a home. We have a lovely theater. We have a great group of people working for us. They have worked very, very hard, extremely hard in order to have this come to fruition, and it finally did. I mean, we never thought it would happen. And now here we are, opening night. I feel like Broadway."

And Board President Pat Burk said the success of the opening night was a pleasant surprise.

"(Opening night) went extremely well," Burk said. "I was very surprised that we had our biggest audience in quite a few years.  We were excited that the audience had such a great reaction to the show."

Batavia Players is transforming (the project is far from complete) more than 14,000 square feet of former medical office space into a lobby, theater, dressing rooms, prop rooms, and office space at a cost of more than $1 million.

The project is made possibly largely through a portion of the Downtown Revitalization Grant awarded to the city by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2017.

Batavia Players received $701,750 from the pot of $10 million in grant money awarded to various Downtown projects.   In 2020, the group was also awarded $417,000 from the New York Street Anchor Grant Program.

To complete the project, the Players still need to raise $265,000 from private donors. So far they've raised $41,000 (to make a donation, visit

Argulsky couldn't be more pleased with how things have turned out so far, though he's already running out of prop and costume space, he said.

"I love the theater, the actual theater. The theater is wonderful," Argulsky said. "I'm looking at my costume room, and I'm saying I don't think I have enough room. But the theater is absolutely great. I mean, the sightlines I've sat all over. I've been able to see the different perspectives from the seats, and there's not a bad seat in the house. So I think the audience will like it. I like the fact that there are wider seats, which are not going to be touching the shoulder of somebody else. And the sightlines are great. The sound is great. So I think everybody is going to enjoy being here."

The initial reviews from the first-night patrons standing in the lobby were positive.

Carol and Dave Waples drove from Spencerport for the opening and described themselves as big supporters of Batavia Players.

They love the fact that the new theater is downtown and were impressed with the overall ambience.

"Oh my gosh, unbelievable," Carol said. "I couldn't wait to get in here. We were so so excited about this. Yeah, it's very, very, very nice. Very impressive from what we've seen."

Co-workers Vicky Muckle and Lisa Casey teamed up to attend opening night. Muckle said she was also there to support a friend, Paige Sikorsky, who was appearing in the show.

"It's a definite improvement over the last place they were at, so I'm excited to get inside," Muckle said. 

Casey praised the project for "bringing life back to this area."

They had dinner downtown before the show and said that's the value of building the theater in downtown Batavia.

"You figure the DRI money was awarded in 2017, and now it's 2023, so to see it actually happening is really cool," said Casey, who worked in the City Manager's Office when the DRI award was announced. "I'm super excited. I didn't think I was to be here for the first actual show, so Vicki bought my ticket, and I'm so excited.

Except for that brief period at Horseshoe Lake in the 1960s, Batavia Players has never had a space it could really call its own.  

The Players were founded in 1931 by Ethel McIntosh, a Latin teacher at Batavia High School, and was comprised of 25 members to start. Their first production was "Beggar on Horseback" at Batavia High School (now the Middle School).  Until the 1960s, the Players performed shows at the New Family Theater on Main Street and in school auditoriums.

After abandoning the Playhouse, the Batavia Players almost disappeared until Wanda Frank helped revive the group.  When the school district started raising rental prices, the Treadway Motor Inn offered performance space as part of a dinner theater. In that era, they also performed at the newly constructed Genesee Community College campus.  In the following decades, the Batavia Players staged shows at schools and churches until renting space at the Harvester Center a few years ago.

(History Source: History of the City of Batavia by Ruth M. McEvoy.)

batavia players main st. 56 opening night
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players main st. 56 opening night
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players main st. 56 opening night
Lisa Casey and Vicky Muckle.
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players main st. 56 opening night
Norm Argulsky
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players main st. 56 opening night
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players main st. 56 opening night
Photo by Howard Owens.

Only "Cry Baby" is on stage as Batavia Players happily open doors to new theater Aug. 11-13

By Joanne Beck
batavia players cry baby
Deacon Smith as Dupree
Photo by Howard Owens.

Cast members and leaders of Batavia Players' Summer Youth Theater want you to grab a seat for their production of “Cry Baby, The Musical,” this weekend, and the only question is: just where will that seat be?

Director Patrick Burk has been teasing the community’s curiosity with the debut of this show, via the sign outside of City Centre and an online post about the long-awaited opening of the new Main St. 56 Theater. 

"We have done a great job, thanks to our community, raising needed funds for seating so that we could open the theater for our summer program.  We still have a lot of work to do to complete the overall project.  We are at approximately $41,000 of our $265,000 goal," Burk said Wednesday. "It is our hope that the community will continually support this fundraising effort so that we can complete the project by the New Year."

Even by Burk’s own recounting of the process, it’s been a long, arduous journey of paperwork, grant applications, construction details, COVID delays, increased labor and raw material costs, and, most importantly — fundraising, fundraising, fundraising. 

"Much of the funds we raised paid for rent, interest, insurance and utilities while the project was on hold during Covid.  Now, we have to raise all that funding again to finish the project. We have had a huge outpouring of donated materials and sweat equity from a number of individuals and local companies. More is needed," he said. "It is our hope that the community will look at this beautiful facility and donate to make it happen."

In May, Burk was at best hopeful for a September splash of the new downtown theater at Batavia City Centre. Batavia Players ramped up a “Be My Guest” campaign seeking donations of any amount to help pay for theater amenities, such as that seat you’re going to hunker down in to watch this musical billed as a rebellious teen comedy based on the 1990 film “Cry-Baby.”

"We are very excited to be opening this weekend with the cult classic 'Cry Baby' and present to the community this highly entertaining and fantastic production," Burk said.  "Our cast is amazing."

Based in 1954, when everyone likes Ike, nobody likes communism, and Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker is the coolest boy in Baltimore, this show features a bad boy with a good cause: truth, justice and the pursuit of rock and roll. 

Wade and the square rich girl, Allison, are star-crossed lovers at the center of this world, with plenty of detractors and distractions to get in the way for a fun plot. Or, as the show’s website states: It's Romeo and Juliet meets High School Hellcats.

“Filled with unforgettable songs and a truly unique and fresh story, Cry-Baby is a perfect choice for any theatre looking to add a-rockin' good time to their season,” the site states. “Cry-Baby, Allison and Baltimore's energetic juvenile delinquents will dance their way right into your audience's heart!”

Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday at 56 Main St., Batavia. 

Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors. Go HERE to purchase. 

batavia players cry baby
 Paige Sikorski as Lenora, Peyton Woeller as Baldwin and Marc Sapareto as Cry Baby Walker
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Paul Daniszewski, Echo Baumer, Peyton Woeller, Michael Gould and Rhys Tanner as the Singing Group "The Whiffles"
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Lyla Jones as Wanda Woodward, Samantha Jane Balbi as Mona "Hatchet Face" Malnowowski, Kylea Wright as Pepper Walker and Jasmine Wessel as Jazz - The Bad Girl Drapes
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Samantha Jane Balbi as Mona "Hatchet Face" Malnorowski
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Alana Kelso, Amora Mabon, Delaney Baker, Carolyn Flint and Emily Gould as the Good Girls
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Elijah Saille as The Guard, Joel Coburn as Junkyard Joel, Billy Zerillo as The Guard, Adam Jursted as Skippy, Deacon Smith as Dupree, Rose Mosher as Mrs. Vernon Williams and Seth Coburn as Judge Igneous Stone
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Kinsley Baker as the Nurse, Adam Jursted as Skippy and Austin Haller as Dr. Woodward
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Marc Sapareto as Cry Baby Walker, Maia Zerillo as Allison, Adam Jursted as Skippy the Poster Boy, Rose Mosher as Mrs. Vernon Williams, Seth Coburn as Judge Igneous Stone and Paul Daniszewski, Echo Baumer, Rhys Tanner and Michael Gould as The Whiffles.
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Paige Sikorski as Lenora, Peyton Woeller as Baldwin and Marc Sapareto as Cry Baby Walker
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Deacon Smith as Dupree during the finale.
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia players cry baby
Entire Cast in the Finale "Nothing Bad is Ever Gonna Happen Again"
Photo by Howard Owens.

There's nothing 'Drowsy' about this comical Batavia Players farce set for this weekend

By Joanne Beck
Batavia Players 2023

It won’t matter if your back is turned when a loud, boisterous character bounds onto the scene of Batavia Players’ weekend show “The Drowsy Chaperone.” You’ll know who it is each and every time without looking because Adolpho, aka Qasim Huzair, enjoys the spotlight and wants to make sure his audience equally enjoys his enthusiasm.

“I actually feed off of people that are sitting right in front of me. That boosts me as an actor because I can play off of them more because when I'm this close to an audience, I tend to involve the audience so much more. And it doesn't make me uncomfortable like it would with some other actors. I really like it, actually, being able to look directly at audience members and make them feel uncomfortable,” the 19-year-old actor said just before rehearsal Wednesday evening at Batavia City Centre. “I enjoy having an audience.”

Now don’t get all nervous about him staring you down. He means it in the nicest way. After all, comedy’s his thing, not intimidation. And playing the lovable paradoxical character of a dark-haired Latino who believes he can get any woman yet does “really stupid things” is an amusing part of Adolpho’s charm.

Why not see for yourself at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday or at 2 p.m. Sunday on the Batavia City Centre stage in downtown Batavia?

Ever since his first role as Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family,” Huzair — and his high school play director — knew he was headed for comedic acting. In fact, the director encouraged Huzair, a theater arts major at Genesee Community College, to pursue the funnier side of acting, which he has done ever since.

So with those two attributes going for him — a love of the spotlight and comedy — what else could he be pursuing?

“As far as an end goal, it would be really nice to get into maybe a TV show setting or film. Like as a stable job through a TV show,” he said. “Of course, I would also love to be in professional stage casts, I like all sorts of acting, straight play acting, musical acting, film acting, whatever gets my foot through the door. I’ve just got to stick with it.”

After GCC, he’ll be applying to several four-year colleges for a bachelor’s in fine arts and a minor in music education. The minor is for his Plan B to be a music teacher, though with a strategy to go on multiple auditions in New York City a year from now, it kind of sounds as if Plan B has been stored away for a while.

“Of course, when you first start out, you can't get an agent. But I'm hoping with exposure and going to a four-year college, a lot of four years theater schools offer the opportunity to perform and have a showcase in front of an audience of agents,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can get an agent from one of those opportunities.”

To boost his backup plan, he plays the sax.

A newcomer to Batavia Players, Huzair’s debut was for its last show and his first experience with being up close and very personal on stage with the cast and patrons. While such proximity has certainly unnerved actors a time or two, it fits Adolpho’s style and allows him to slide into the audience rather ceremoniously. He’s not one to tip-toe.

“He is very funny. That’s why I auditioned for him,” Huzair said. “He sings this one song, and it’s hilarious. I love making an audience laugh. When I play off an audience, it gives me more energy.”

Hence, the looking into people’s eyes up on stage thing. He’s unabashedly fearless to make that human connection. So what’s this young actor — who got so carried away as a kid that the director warned him to tone it down because he wasn’t supposed to be drawing all the attention away from the lead  — like off stage?

“When people get to know me, I’m very obnoxious. I’m always practicing my comedy on my family,” he said. “As a person, I’m always trying to make people laugh.”

Adolpho is the stereotypical Latin lover, he said, holding a "rose in his teeth very pompous" type of guy, yet is also very oblivious in that “he doesn’t get basic concepts.” Adolpho is convinced that he could get any woman that he wants, his alter-ego said.

“He's very confident,” Huzair said. “But what's the ironic part about it is his character is very stupid.”

Well-spoken and articulate, Huzair doesn’t exactly mirror that description. He described the show, which neither he nor fellow actor Jeriko Nemeth sitting nearby had ever seen before. 

A comical farce based in a man’s living room, the premise puts the audience in the room with the character aptly titled “man in chair.” He listens to a recording of a fictional 1928 comedy, and the characters begin to appear in his sad, dingy apartment, bringing to life his meager existence into an impressive Broadway performance.

Intriguing set-up, yes? Add to it glitzy costumes, sparkly furniture, painted backdrops, lively personalities — Broadway producer Feldzieg, flapper Kitty, aging hostess Mrs. Tottendale, two gangsters-in-hiding as pastry chefs, and Nemeth’s Amelia Earhart-like pilot character, to name just some of the living room troupe.

Equipment failures starts and stops that freeze the action, a plane trip, wedding plans for four couples, Janet, the alcoholic chaperone who talks of being drowsy (there’s your title), and a line-up of musical numbers that will move this production happily along to “Love is Always Lovely in the End.”

Nemeth, another GCC theater student who is pursuing a creative arts degree, auditioned for Trix the Aviatrix. She was drawn to the characteristics of Trix.

“She is the big black female role,” Nemeth, 18, said. “She always has a smile on her face. It’s definitely an acting job, I can’t relate to, being a pilot ... being in the sky and being in Rio. I’ve never been on a plane before.”

Nemeth has enjoyed being part of the show and a creative environment. Ever since she was a child, painting and drawing were her favorite activities, she said. Then came a fondness for acting, with her first role in “Mama Mia.”

“I ended up having this love for stepping out of my real life and going into something that I can at least forget about everything else for a good couple hours,” she said. “As my character of Trix, since she's a pilot, she has very heavy clothing. I do wear a leather jacket on stage as well as like a heavy cab, and it’s just so sweaty. But that's honestly, my only struggle with the character is just the heat. But you learn to get through it.”

While describing the show, Huzair paused to question why he or many others haven’t seen it before. It’s pretty darned funny.

“This show is short and sweet, not too long. It’s a short little time of fun,” he said. “Chock full of jokes and laughter, acting and singing, all those aspects are put together, it’s a very entertaining show. I don’t know why it’s not more well-known.”

Tickets are $18 for adults and $16 for students and seniors, and may be purchased at

Photos by Howard Owens.

Batavia Players 2023
Batavia Players 2023
Batavia Players 2023
Batavia Players 2023
Batavia Players 2023

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