Glen Osborne resident bringing community theater to Ambridge
The founder of the Iron Horse Theatre Company says the name was inspired by the “iron-willed, strong” people of Ambridge, and its plays will focus on people who show a similar grit and determination.
The nonprofit community theater will be based at 348 Maplewood Ave. in Ambridge. The two-story brick building once was a bar and then was turned into a church, said London Cain, the group’s founder and president.
“I got a really good deal on the building,” said Cain, 55, of Glen Osborne.
He said he has been involved with theater for many years as an actor, director and producer.
Initially, Cain thought the theater company would use the building for set construction and rehearsals and do its productions somewhere else.
“Then, I read a book called ‘Rust Belt Boy’ by Paul Hertneky,” who wrote about growing up in Ambridge, he said.
The book resonated with Cain, who grew up on Pittsburgh’s North Side and recognized the types of people in Hertneky’s book.
“I decided I really want to make this (building) a theater, not just a practice space,” Cain said.
“I really want to do my part in revitalizing Ambridge.”
The building will have a 75-seat theater on the first floor and space on the second floor that can be used for acting, art, photography, dance, music and yoga classes for children and adults, Cain said.
He said the organization needs to raise about $50,000 to complete the theater portion of the building and about $30,000 more for the second floor.
Because the building has to be remodeled and made more accessible for people with disabilities, the organization’s first performances, which will take place in November, will be at other sites.
The kickoff production will be a staged reading of the play “Good People” by David Lindsay-Abaire, which will be part of an evening that also will feature piano music, drinks and appetizers.
In the dark comedy, a single mother who loses her job as a cashier seeks help from her high school boyfriend, who now is a doctor. She still lives in the blue-collar “Southie” neighborhood of Boston, but he has moved on to the affluent Chestnut Hill.
The shows will take place Nov. 12 at the Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley and Nov. 19 at the Laughlin Memorial Library in Ambridge. Tickets will be available soon. The theater’s website is ironhorsetheatrecompany.com.
Cain, a language-arts teacher at Moon Area Middle School, said he was active in community theater and was a drama teacher when he lived in California, and he moved back to the Pittsburgh area in 2010.
“I thought this area in Sewickley would do well to have a community theater,” he said, but he didn’t have time to pursue the idea for a while.
He said he hopes to open the theater portion of the organization’s building in late spring or early summer.
“It all comes down to money,” he said.
Cain said a committee is planning a fund drive for the fall.
Once the theater is fully up and running, Cain said, he hopes the company will do at least three shows a year.
He said he also wants to make the theater’s space available for other arts events, such as acoustic or jazz music, poetry readings or author visits.
Everyone, including those with no previous acting experience, will be invited to try out for the company’s shows, Cain said, and he hopes to involve a lot of local talent. People will not have to “join” the theater company, he said.
Cain said he does not view his organization as a competitor for the Sewickley Area Theatre Co. because that nonprofit group started by Leetsdale resident David Ford focuses on musicals, and Iron Horse will focus on straight plays.
Cain’s wife, Maya Andlig, is the head of Iron Horse’s fundraising committee.
She said the readings of “Good People” are a way to make people familiar with the organization.
“We’re holding the readings to introduce the community to our project and for London to introduce himself,” she said, “and we hope that people see the value.”
Andlig said she hopes people will recognize that the theater company has goals beyond its performances.
“We hope, too, that people will see that this is a way to support the children of Ambridge,” she said.
Andlig, a mental-health therapist, said she loves the arts.
“I think that it’s really important for people to have an opportunity to explore themes and experiences that might resonate with their life,” she said.
Madelyn Dinnerstein is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.