Pewter Playhouse plans its next act

The run of the most recent play at Cambria’s Pewter Plough Playhouse concluded with a matinee Feb. 28.

Its operators hope it’s not curtains for the theater, too, but say it might be unless they can raise the $32,000 needed to install a fire-safety sprinkler system.

The play is “Finishing Touches.” As it happens, that’s just what the nonprofit theater group needs to put on a series of safety upgrades ordered by fire and building code officials in late 2007.

According to the theater’s board, everything has been done except the most expensive measure: installation of a sprinkler system that would douse a fire in the aging structure at 824 Main St.

At a meeting on Saturday afternoon, 30 people sat in red velvet chairs and listened to theater operators discuss plans for a fundraising campaign.

A kick-off event that will include a raffle, silent auction, dinner and dancing is scheduled for April 18 at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cambria.

They will not be allowed to use the playhouse for any fundraising events.

The sprinkler system must be in place before the theater can reopen, authorities say.

The Plough’s county permit for sprinkler installation expires July 31, according to a conditional extension granted by county code-enforcer Art Trinidade. If the July deadline is not met, the theater would apply for a new permit.

Jim Buckley has owned the Playhouse since 1976, but the nonprofit Pewter Plough Players organization established to run the theater is responsible for the leasehold improvement.

They are allowing donations and have begun reaching out to the community to “Get behind the Plough.”

“Unfortunately we have to close temporarily, but we can’t get anything done until we get the word out to the community,” James Lee Buckley, Jim Buckley’s son, said. “We’re appealing to our community to help us and understand our challenges and respond.”

Actor and Cambria resident Nehemiah Persoff attended Saturday’s meeting. Persoff has directed plays at the theater and is a member of its board.

“I was able to sit here and be reintroduced to plays that I already knew,” he said. “The Playhouse has given so many people the opportunity to experience the thrill of performing.”

The theater used to seat 61 patrons. With installation of a new exit, that was cut to 58 seats. As part of being allowed to remain open, maximum attendance was at 45, further cutting the theater’s revenue stream.

Other improvements that have been made to the playhouse include a new staircase and handrails, electrical systems upgrades, an address sign and permanently securing theater seats to the floor.

Staff writer Kathe Tanner and Assistant City Editor Bert Etling contributed to this report.