Former courthouse will be a theater again
MONTOUR FALLS—The second floor of the Montour Falls village hall has served many purposes.
Bill Christoffels said it was a teen club in the 1960s and 1920s and a theater in the 1950s. The village planning board has met up there, it housed a roller rink, and recently was used for storage. Originally, it was the Havana Courthouse before Montour Falls was Montour Falls. Now, it is being made into a theater yet again.
Christoffels, and his wife Donna as musical director, are turning it into the Old Havana Courthouse Theatre this summer. The theater company will perform four different plays Fridays and Saturdays on a rotating basis from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.
Auditions were held last week. Christoffels said there are 14 actors making up two casts. He explained most of the people are Montour Falls residents with some from Elmira and Corning. Camilla Schade, performer and Alpine resident, will direct.
“It’s the cream of the crop of the local stage group,” he said.
Christoffels originally knew nothing about the second floor space in the village hall. He explained he was recently retired after 50 years of performing and wanted to write a play. The focus was going to be on Charles Cook so Christoffels was researching him at the Montour Falls library. A worker there told him he could perform the play on the stage next door. Christoffels said he immediately went to check out the space.
“It was screaming out for melodrama,” he said.
So that is what the theater will perform. Christoffels said the performances will be interspersed with music from 1910, just like when the plays were originally performed. The turn of the century plays will be:
“Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie, He Can’t Corner You There”
“D.K. Molar, the Devious Dentist”
“The Old Cookie Shop”
“The Perils of Pricilla”
He called it family entertainment. Christoffels said the 7 p.m. performances will give tourists something to do in the evenings on weekends.
Christoffels said the stage was renovated in the 1970s, so they didn’t have to do a lot of work. The theater company did install a chair lift to make the second floor handicapped accessible. He added the couple bought 100 chairs to add to the bench seating already up there. John and Lorna King also loaned an 1895 piano for use at the plays.
Christoffels said he signed a five year lease with the village of Montour Falls to use the space during the summer, so he wants to do the series again. He added he would like to extend the season into October, but that depends on the cast.
While the plays won’t start until June, Christoffels said he is planning a May open house. For more, visit http://www.oldhavanatheatre.com.