The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 27, 2012

'It's a nostalgic part of summer to come to Cresson Lake'


— Tracey Ingold of Cresson has been onstage at Cresson Lake Playhouse as well as volunteering.

Now, she works as house manager.

A playhouse volunteer for 10 years, Ingold started volunteering and acting because of her close proximity to the theater.

“I lived three or four minutes down the road and thought this would be a good opportunity for my three children to volunteer, too,” Ingold said.

“It would be a social outlet where they could interact with the public and learn business skills.”

Volunteering at Cresson Lake became a part of family life.

“It’s a nostalgic part of summer to come to Cresson Lake,” Ingold said.

“It’s not summer unless we’re out at the barn.”

Ingold tested Altoona Community Theater, but figured she would try Cresson Lake when it was right in her back yard.

Ingold has always encouraged her three daughters, who sing, act and dance, to come to auditions.

“The first show I saw was ‘South Pacific,’ and I wondered where all the singing and dancing men came from,” she said.

“This was live entertainment right here, not New York or Pittsburgh.”

Ingold spoke with executive director Elaine Mastalski and auditioned.

She played Sister Robert Ann in the various “Nunsense” shows, and has had roles in “Steel Magnolias” and “High School Musical.”

“I did it for fun,” Ingold said.

Ingold estimated there are 40 to 50 people who volunteer.

When auditions are held, there also is a volunteer form to fill out if someone would rather help behind the scenes.

When current board member James Dugan got involved, he started volunteering, helping out backstage with shows when he wasn’t acting.  

“On the volunteering side, I think the playhouse creates an atmosphere of family and friends,” Dugan said.

“Volunteering on a project with CLP is like going to your friend’s house to help paint. It gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment to help out.”

Dugan said being a volunteer at Cresson Lake opens new doors to meet people from different walks of life, geographical areas and personalities.  

“I have friends that I met in my first show in 1985 that I still talk to weekly,” Dugan said.

“We still get together.

“What’s nice about volunteering  is whatever your strengths are, there is a place for you.”

Dugan also has worked various positions with the playhouse through the years.  

He has been an office assistant, ran the box office, worked as maintenance at the barn for many summers taking care of the grounds and facilities and doubled as assistant technical director, building the sets for each show of the season.  

“At different points, I have served as house manager, organizing ushers and taking care of the patrons coming to see the shows,” Dugan said.  

“I also have served as stage manager-production manager for many shows.

“When the playhouse was pro-am (professional-amateur) for a few years, that was a particularly satisfying position. When the professional directors from New York would open the show and leave for another contract, it was the stage manager’s responsibility to keep the show running smoothly and in line with the director’s vision.”

Dugan figures he has held nearly every position at the playhouse, except for business manager and artistic director.

Other Cresson Lake staffers include Denise Leigh of Summerhill, who has worked as box-office manager for six or seven years.

Her son had performed onstage and volunteered for the playhouse when he was younger.

Gary Fickes of Hollidysburg has been lighting designer at the playhouse for 11 seasons.

Ingold said volunteers can serve as ushers, sell 50-50 tickets, answer questions and man the concession stand and merchandise table.

“For some productions, it depends on the director,” Ingold said.

She said volunteers live in the area – Cresson, Johnstown, Summerhill, Northern Cambria, Altoona and Martinsburg.

“A lot have a longtime connection,” Ingold said.

“They’ve been on the board or were actors. They have a tie to Cresson Lake, and it’s like family.”

The director might need an assistant, children in the cast might need watching, a green room mom might be needed.

“For a larger cast with children, parents might stay for rehearsals, and that gives them the opportunity to volunteer,” Ingold said.

“If you want to help, there’s something to do. It can be intimidating if you’re not involved in the theater world.”

Anyone interested in volunteering should call the office.

“It’s easy to help out,” Ingold said.

“Every show needs a stage manager, someone to gather props and help the costumer. On the technical side, there’s lighting and microphones. There always a place to help.”

For those thinking they couldn’t be of help, Ingold said there’s so much more to work with.

“You become a family telling a story, creating a world,” she said.

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