Highlights from CSTC Annual Meeting

Clear Space Theatre Company’s patrons, board, and Producer’s Circle met on Tuesday May 14 for the company’s annual meeting. News from the most recent season was shared, as well as updates on future plans and programs.

After a musical performance from Autumn Schneider, board chair Megan Nehrbas opened the gathering by welcoming the many new faces joining Clear Space for an annual meeting for the first time, recognizing that this was our largest attended annual meeting ever. She thanked everyone for their support and service.

After celebrating the artistic successes of the 2023 season (including sold out runs for Young Frankenstein and Kinky Boots), Artistic Director David Button shared plans for this year’s exciting summer season – including not only three blockbuster mainstage productions of Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, and The Prom, but also our annual Saturday morning series for young audiences and a two new series. The Signature Cabaret Series will give members of the season ensemble the opportunity to shine in exciting new ways. The Presenting Series will help Clear Space welcome artists of great caliber to our stage for special one night or one weekend engagements – including such artists as Tony Award winner Len Cariou, Tony nominees Sarah Stiles and Liz Larsen, and comedienne Fay Jacobs. In addition, David Button announced the breaking news that CSTC has secured the rights to Hairspray for our 2025 summer season. (The rest of the 2025 season will be announced later this year.)

Managing Director Joe Gfaller highlighted recent organizational accomplishments, including CSTC’s 2023 reach (nearly 19,000 audience members from across 61 of 62 zip codes in the state and 36 states across the country) and 2024 audience growth (with attendance up 59% to date year-over year). He further highlighted the exciting opportunity for coastal Delaware audiences to experience the creation of a new musical firsthand with one of the summer presented events: a staged reading of the new musical Psyche by Jake Landeau and Emily Garber. This New York-based creative team will spend three weeks in residence this summer before a weekend of performances, which will include both Broadway artists and CSTC summer ensemble performers. Not only will this workshop help the project take its final shape artistically, it will also enable our season artists to work together with national artists of significant caliber during their summer residency with us. Plus, CSTC announced the hire of new Director of Development and Community Engagement, Todd Espeland who will join us in late June.

Neil Kirschling, Executive Director of Delaware Arts Alliance, shared details on DAA’s statewide CREATE study and emphasized the importance of empowering artists and fostering understanding among elected officials about the significance of the arts for our state. The CREATE study is the first of its kind nationwide, in analyzing and providing recommendations at the municipal, county, and state level for how the cultural sector can be better be embraced for economic impact and quality of life. The study offers up 25 recommendations, varying from review of municipal ordinances to reduce barriers of access to the arts to recommendations for the creation of arts hubs in key communities across the state to help artists of all disciplines gather, develop, and grow. Neil also encouraged attendees to advocate to their elected officials to help increase funding for the Delaware Division of the Arts during the current legislative session.

After remarks, there were questions for Neil, Joe, and David. Then, board member and Producer’s Circle member Ida Rowe shared a few closing words about why she and her husband Jeff participate in Clear Space – encouraging our guests to consider joining them as volunteers and donors to help bring us all one step closer to Clear Space’s bright future.

Before and after the program, guests enjoyed a light reception which was sponsored by Ida and Jeff Rowe.

Thanks to everyone who joined us at the event. Here’s to 2024!

Clear Space Announces Casting for Summer Repertory Season

Summer Season Opens June 25 and Includes Company Premieres of Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, and The Prom

Members of the Summer Ensemble to Also Perform in CSTC’s New Signature Cabaret Series and in Morning Performances for Young Audiences

Rehoboth Beach, DE (May 13, 2024) – Clear Space Theatre Company’s 20th anniversary continues with its beloved annual summer repertory season, featuring three CSTC premieres: Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, and The Prom. After holding both local auditions in Rehoboth Beach and national auditions in New York City from nearly 1,200 audition submissions, CSTC is pleased to announce casts for these three summer mainstage shows, performing in rotating repertory from June 25 through August 31, 2024. Members of the ensemble will also perform in a series of late night cabaret events and in morning performances of two short plays for young audiences. Tickets for all productions are available at www.clearspacetheatre.org.

CSTC’s summer casts include a combination of returning national artists, national artists new to the Clear Space stage, favorite local performers, and a special teen ensemble who will supplement the cast of The Prom. Most artists perform in all three mainstage shows. Once all three productions are open, all three are offered every week of the summer, making it possible for summer visitors to the area to enjoy all three over the course of a weeklong vacation to the Delaware beaches.

Returning national artists in the upcoming season include Tiffany Beckford (last seen at CSTC as Ruth in A Raisin in the Sun), Liz Culver (returning from CSTC’s current production of The Bodyguard: The Musical), Eva Gary (Lauren in 2023’s sold out summer production of Kinky Boots), Thomas Higgins (title role in 2023’s SpongeBob SquarePants), Scott Taylor-Cole (last playing Pip in CSTC’s 2023 holiday production Estella Scrooge), and Ashley Williams (returning after her leading role as Rachel Marron in CSTC’s current production of The Bodyguard: The Musical).

Local favorites returning for the 2024 summer season include Billy Burke (ensembles of Victor/Victoria and Damn Yankees), Carissa Meiklejohn (Alison in Fun Home and Rosie in Mamma Mia), Rick Nazzaro (Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady and Trotter in The Mousetrap), Elli Oechsler (Inga in Young Frankenstein and Mollie in The Mousetrap), Autumn Schneider (Donna in Mamma Mia! and Adelaide in Guys and Dolls), Julia Sturla (Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and the title role in Carrie), and Matt Whalen (the title role in Young Frankenstein and Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar).

National newcomers to Clear Space include William Coffey (seen in The Tank Theater in NYC in Like Father, Like Son), Caetano de Sá (credits include Boston Conservatory, Prairie Repertory Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts), Briana Hernandez (roles at Cumberland County Playhouse, Red Mountain Theatre, and Woodstock Playhouse), Emma Schilling (roles with Sharon Playhouse and Butler Ballet), Harry Sperduto (professional debut at Pioneer Theater), and Jason Tobias (performances at Papermill Playhouse and The Madison Theatre).

Youth performers will supplement the ensemble of The Prom, the recent Broadway hit making its professional regional debut at Clear Space Theatre Company as part of the summer season. Reaching from as far as Berlin, MD and Dover, DE, these young people are among the top teen performers in the region. The young artists include Alex DeEmedio, Julia DiSabatino, Marley Fyock, Trista Harner, Chase Reynolds, Brooke Rhue, Kate Slaysman, Abby Whitcomb, Brianna Wittman, and Cassidy Yiengst, with Zoe Cullen, Liv Nehrbas, Gio Porfido, and Ruby Quinn serving as covers. All of the young artists have performed previously on the CSTC stage in Arts Institute productions such as Disney Descendants, Godspell, and Matilda and in such recent mainstage productions as My Fair Lady, Estella Scrooge, and Young Frankenstein.

Dubbed CSTC’s “Young Company” each summer, these young performers will also produce two Saturday morning productions for young audiences, an annual tradition in CSTC’s summer repertory season. This summer’s productions for young audiences are Three Bearos, or the Truth about Goldilocks and Rescue from the Snow Queen. Productions will be offered on alternate Saturday mornings at 11am throughout the summer.

Members of the summer professional company will also perform in CSTC’s new Signature Cabaret Series, which will be offered as late night performances at 10:30pm on select Friday and Saturday evenings. Summer cabaret titles include Divas Live (July 12), Broadway Backwards (July 26), Let’s Hear it for the Boy (August 9), Summer Lovin’ (August 16), and Final Bow (August 31). In addition, select season artists are scheduled both to participate in a summer workshop of a new musical being developed in partnership between CSTC and a New York City-based creative team and to perform in a Luker Fellows Showcase (August 17) as part of CSTC’s Rebecca Luker Partnership.

Additional late night and dark night programming featuring presented artists will be announced at a later date to round out the full summer repertory festival. In total, CSTC will offer 84 performances between June 25 and August 31, 2024, the largest volume of summer performances in company history. Summer flex passes including all 3 mainstage productions and choice of 2 special events from the Signature Cabaret Series or presented series, are available for $129, plus service fees. For individual tickets or summer flex passes, visit www.clearspacetheatre.org, call 302-227-2270, or visit the box office in person at 20 Baltimore Avenue, Rehoboth Beach DE 19971.

About Clear Space Theatre Company
Clear Space Theatre Company, is Delaware’s second-largest professional non-profit theater and the state’s most prolific producer of professional theater. A 501(c)3 cultural organization, CSTC was founded in 2004 and is currently located at 20 Baltimore Avenue, Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971. Each year, the company produces a 10-13 production season of plays and musicals, including a summer repertory festival and a series featuring young artists. Through the Rebecca Luker Theatrical Partnership, CSTC is paving a path forward to create a more inclusive space for future arts leaders of color while honoring the company’s mission and Ms. Luker’s commitment to racial justice. The company’s Performing Arts Institute reaches students of all ages, building self-confidence, inspiring collaborative problem solving, and awakening creativity. Under the current leadership of Artistic Director David Button and Managing Director Joe Gfaller, Clear Space Theatre Company is comprised of a remarkable team of full-time, part-time, and volunteer administrators, artists, and educators.

Welcome Jadine Pilotti to Clear Space!

House Manager & Development Coordinator

Jadine Pilotti, a proud Rehoboth local, brings a captivating blend of artistic flair and dedicated hospitality and management expertise to her role as House Manager and Development Coordinator at Clear Space Theatre Group. With a rich background as the Operator/Marketer of Ocean Glass Inn, Jadine has spent five years passionately curating unforgettable guest experiences, honing her understanding of people, operations, and promotions.

In her dual capacity, Jadine infuses Clear Space Theatre Company with her vibrant energy, striving to elevate the atmosphere and ensure exceptional customer service for all patrons. Her primary focus is on creating a warm and welcoming environment, where everyone feels included and valued and on nurturing positive relationships with CSTC’s generous supporters. 

Prior to her time leading Ocean Glass Inn, Jadine’s journey has included  roles at Skylar Marketing, APM, and Transamerica She looks forward to meeting you at the theater! 

Directing A Raisin in The Sun

by Ashley Williams

As a black woman, it is important to me to see strong representations of people who look like me in the media and in art. When I had the opportunity to direct Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic play, A Raisin in The Sun, I knew this was a chance to showcase black excellence and bring a powerful story to life on stage.

A Raisin in The Sun tells the story of the Younger family, a black family living in Chicago in the 1950s. The play explores themes of race, poverty, and the pursuit of dreams in the face of overwhelming adversity. As a black woman, I connected deeply with the struggles and triumphs of the characters in the play, and I knew that I wanted to bring their story to the stage with authenticity and honesty.

One of the things that drew me to A Raisin in The Sun was that it was written by a black woman. Lorraine Hansberry was a trailblazer in the world of theater, and her work continues to resonate with audiences today. I felt a sense of pride in being able to direct a play written by a black woman, and I wanted to honor her legacy by bringing her words to life in a meaningful way.

Another reason why I wanted to direct A Raisin in The Sun was because of the talented cast that was assembled for the production. The actors were all incredibly skilled and dedicated to their craft, and I was inspired by their enthusiasm and passion for the project. Despite having only a week to prepare for the production, the cast worked tirelessly to bring their characters to life and create a powerful and cohesive performance on stage.

I also love the storyline of hopes and dreams that runs throughout A Raisin in The Sun. Each character in the play has their own hopes and dreams, whether it is to buy a house, go to medical school, or become a successful businesswoman. The play explores the ways in which these dreams are shaped by race, class, and gender, and how they can either help to unite or divide a family. I was drawn to the universal themes of A Raisin in The Sun, and I wanted to explore them with the cast and bring them to life for the audience.

Finally, I was inspired by the opportunity to showcase black excellence on stage. With the majority of the cast being black, I saw this production as a chance to celebrate the talent and diversity of black actors and artists. I wanted to create a space where black voices could be heard and black stories could be told with authenticity and respect. I wanted to create a show that would inspire and uplift, and that would challenge audiences to think critically about race, inequality, and the power of dreams.

In conclusion, I wanted to direct A Raisin in The Sun because it was a chance to bring a powerful and important story to life on stage. As a black woman, I felt a personal connection to the themes and characters of the play, and I was inspired by the opportunity to showcase black excellence and celebrate the talent and diversity of black actors and artists. I wanted to honor the legacy of Lorraine Hansberry and bring her words to life with authenticity and honesty. And most importantly, I wanted to create a show that would inspire and uplift both the cast and the audience, and that would challenge us all to think critically about race, inequality, and the power of dreams.

Woman standing in foreground with man in suit behind her.

Starring in The Bodyguard: The Musical

by Ashley Williams

Starring in The Bodyguard: The Musical at Clear Space Theater Company has been truly rewarding and empowering experience for me as a plus-size actor. I have always loved performing and bringing characters to life on stage, but I have often faced challenges due to my appearance not fitting the stereotypical standards of the industry. However, Clear Space Theater Company has provided me with the opportunity to showcase my talent and be appreciated for my skills rather than judged based on my size.

When I first heard that Clear Space was putting on a production of The Bodyguard: The Musical, I was both nervous and excited. The role of Rachel Marron, the iconic singer and actress, is typically portrayed by actresses who fit the traditional Hollywood image of beauty and glamour. As a plus-size actor, I wasn’t sure if I would even be considered for the role. However, to my surprise and delight, I was offered the role and I get to showcase my acting and singing abilities.

From the moment rehearsals began, I felt welcomed and supported by the entire cast and crew. It was a refreshing change from past experiences where I often felt like I had to prove myself more than my thinner counterparts. Clear Space Theater Company truly values diversity and inclusivity, and I am grateful to be a part of a community where talent and passion are the true markers of success.

As we delved deeper into rehearsals, I found myself connecting deeply with Rachel Marron’s character. She is a strong, independent woman who is fiercely protective of her family and career. Despite facing numerous threats and challenges, she remains resilient and determined to succeed. I saw parallels between Rachel’s journey and my own experiences as a plus-size actor in a competitive industry.

The Bodyguard: The Musical is a demanding show both emotionally and physically, but I was determined to give it my all and do justice to the character. The musical numbers were exhilarating, and I was able to showcase my vocal range and acting skills in a way that I had never done before. The chemistry between the cast members is palpable, and we work together seamlessly to bring the story to life on stage. All credit is due to our amazing Director Christopher Decker. 

Working on The Bodyguard: The Musical at Clear Space Theater Company has been a transformative experience for me as a plus-size actor. I have learned to embrace my body and celebrate my uniqueness, rather than trying to fit into a narrow definition of beauty. I have gained confidence in my abilities and my worth as a performer, and I am grateful to Clear Space for giving me the opportunity to shine on stage.

In conclusion, starring in The Bodyguard: The Musical at Clear Space Theater Company has been a dream come true for me as a plus-size actor. It has shown me that talent and passion are the true markers of success, and that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I am proud to be a part of a community that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, and I look forward to continuing my journey as a performer with confidence and pride. Thank you, Clear Space Theater Company, for believing in me and giving me the chance to soar on stage.

Launching Clear Space’s 20th Anniversary

Post by Joe Gfaller, Managing Director
Jan. 18, 2024

Tomorrow evening, Clear Space Theatre Company starts our 20th anniversary season. It’s a very exciting time for us all – the start of a new year and the start of a new chapter. This season ahead is already filled with so much excitement and promise, as the audiences, patrons, and community around Clear Space continues to grow. As of the close of 2023, close to 19,000 audience members had joined us throughout the year – with the greatest density, as always, in the summer months.

Usually, this moment in January is a quieter time in our community, and as a result in our audience. But – happily! – not this year.

Here we are the day before opening The Mousetrap, the classic Agatha Christie thriller that launches our 2024 season, and ticket sales for the show have been so robust, for the first time ever, we’re adding an additional performance to one of our January productions. So, if you can’t find a ticket to the originally scheduled performances, you now can find tickets on Thursday, February 1 at 7pm. (There are also still some tickets to the Thursday, January 25th performance at 11am.) We’ve come a long way since 2004 when the company was founded, but how thrilling it is to know that what we do is as vital as ever – and as wanted as ever – as we begin Clear Space’s next decade!

It has taken a remarkable village to bring us here – from 20 years’ worth of artists on and off our stages… to board members, staff members, audiences, and of course the many, many volunteers. Volunteers are often the unsung heroes of a non-profit – which is why we are starting the year with a celebration of them. When you come to the theater and and usher is helping you find your seat, you’re encountering one of our many volunteers. When you come to a fundraising event and see how beautifully the decor has been arranged, that was likely the work of a volunteer. The representative of Clear Space you met at a street fair or farmer’s market was very likely also a volunteer. Even some of our most consequential organizational decisions rely on our volunteers on our board of directors. Volunteers help multiply Clear Space’s arms, legs, brains, and heart with their generosity in giving of their greatest gift – time.

If you join us for opening tomorrow night, you’ll get to meet many of the volunteers we are celebrating this year. It’s also when we’ll award our volunteer of the year award to recognize the extraordinary impact and commitment from someone who has gone above and beyond last year. There’s a reception starting at 6pm, an hour before the show starts at 7pm. So consider coming early to enjoy the company of these wonderful people who continue to be the heartbeat of Clear Space.

If you’d like to join this mighty and generous group of supporters, just let Lara Bellistri know. We’ll be glad to add you to the list! Lara’s email is lara@clearspacetheatre.org.

We can’t wait to see you at The Mousetrap and everything we have in store for our 20th season. It’s going to be a wonderful year!

Clear Space Theatre Company Announces New Managing Director Joe Gfaller After National Search

Accomplished arts leader will relocate to Rehoboth Beach to assume new role in November 2023

Rehoboth Beach, DE (September 26, 2023) – Clear Space Theatre Company (CSTC) announces that its Board of Directors has unanimously selected Joe Gfaller, currently Managing Director for St. Louis MO’s Metro Theater Company, to join the company as Managing Director after the conclusion of a rigorous national search. Gfaller will join Artistic Director David Button as co-leader at CSTC, which marks its 20th anniversary in 2024.

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Delaware Division of the Arts

This organization is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

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