CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. – (5/28/09)-- The Black Hills Playhouse and its talented cast and crew from across the nation will entertain audiences of all ages for a 64th year. 2009 could also be the final season at beautiful Custer State Park.
University of South Dakota professor Dr. Warren M. Lee founded the Black Hills Playhouse in 1946. He’d been leading his students in a series of theatrical performances, which ended up at the current site of the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State park near Center Lake. The site was previously a Civilian Conservation Corps camp lodge.
The Black Hills Playhouse is a semi-professional theater company. Regional auditions are held at sites in Vermillion and Rapid City, while online applications are sent in from across the country. In all, some 600 auditions are viewed before the cast is chosen.
This year, two equity actors, or professionals from the actor’s union, will be displaying their talents at the Black Hills Playhouse. Herman Johansen, known for his appearances in the productions My Fair Lady and American Buffalo, will take the stage alongside Marcia Wallace, formerly Carol Kester Bondurant from the Bob Newhart Show and the voice of the drab and bitter fourth-grade teacher Edna Krabappel from The Simpsons.
Five productions are scheduled at the Black Hills Playhouse this summer. The season includes the comedies “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “The Sugar Bean Sisters,” along with three musicals—“Suds,” “Sweet Metigoshe” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
“This year’s performances are very family appropriate,” said Michael Burgraff, Executive Director of the Black Hills Playhouse.
The 10-year lease the Black Hills Playhouse had with the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks will expire October 1, 2009. The Playhouse is currently working on a 5-year business plan to increase ticket sales and funding to renew a long-term lease with the park. However, the playhouse could have to move to a different location such as Rockerville or Rapid City.
The majority of the funding for the Playhouse comes from public donations, which help cover the costs of food and onsite dormitories provided to the cast and crew along with utilities, scenery and props.
“We rely heavily on the generosity of donors,” Burgraff said.
Fans need not fret if a long-term lease is not renewed. The Black Hills Playhouse plans to continue productions, even if it moves to a new location, and this year’s performances are highly anticipated.
“We’re gearing up for what we expect to be one of the finest seasons and possibly one of the last at the park. I hope everyone can come and witness this piece of history,” states Burgraff.
This year’s productions begin June 11. Evening performances occur Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Children under 12 get in for $5, and students ages 13-18 for $10. Adult tickets range from $15 to $23 depending upon the night and show. Tickets can be reserved by calling (605) 255-4141.