BY TOM LAVIS
As a minister, the Rev. Joseph Beer knows a good thing when he sees it.
Beer serves as chairman of the board of Mountain Playhouse, but his association with the theater’s founding family dates back decades.
As spiritual leader of Mount Laurel United Church of Christ in Gray, Beer said the Stoughton family, including Teresa Stoughton Marafino and Mary Louise Stoughton, attends the church.
“Teresa and Mary Louise’s mother was the architect of our church,” Beer said. “I have been a member of the board since it was started (in 1998).”
Beer has lived in Somerset County for 32 years. He learned about the playhouse through the Stoughton sisters’ association with the church.
“At that time, the girls were young and not involved in the day-to-day operation (of the playhouse),” he said.
“My wife began attending performances there from the time we came to the area.”
He never imagined that he would assume the role of board chairman, but Beer is doing his best to ensure that the organization continues to remain a vital part of the community.
Beer is one of six board members dedicated to making sure live, professional theater continues to light the stage in Jennerstown.
The board meets once a month at the playhouse and getting a quorum is never a concern.
Marafino said the playhouse’s bylaws allow for as many as 15 board members, but she and her sister do not sit on the board.
“We are actually employees and we also own the building, so it would be a conflict if we were to be on the board,” she said.
New members sought
Beer said new board members are being sought.
“We are presently attempting to recruit board members from the Ligonier and Somerset areas to serve three-year terms,” Beer said.
Each board member chairs a committee, which are finance, marketing, personnel, programing and fundraising/public relations.
Beer is impressed that everyone on the board works hard to produce quality theater for the region.
“I have learned how much it takes to accomplish that,” he said. “I don’t always think the community understands how much we pay in royalties and for other aspects of each production.”
Beer’s responsibilities include setting meeting agendas, approving checks written by the organization and participating in other committees.
The board is committed to finding new ways to use the facility for the betterment of the community and how best to present the history of the region.
“We use drama and comedy to do so,” Beer said. “We also continue to hold a national playwriting contest in order to find new material that can be produced here and throughout the country.”
He pointed out that having professional theater in the area gives audiences a high-quality production.
“We have produced plays and musicals that are as good as those found in other parts of the country,” he said.
Beer said no one works harder than Marafino to offer the public the highest quality theatrical experience.
“Teresa is the glue that holds the playhouse together,” Beer said. “Her passion for theater and her hard work and dedication to the arts are the attributes that I admire the most.”
When vacancies occur on the board, an effort is made to add someone from a certain location or with a specific expertise.
“The board is always open to new ideas to better utilize our organization and I am proud of how well we work together for the common good of the playhouse,” Beer said.
He said the board is comprised of a cross-section of professions.
“Our board has included lawyers, businesspeople, accountants, business owners, people with banking backgrounds and a pastor,” he said.
One of the biggest concerns facing the board is the playhouse’s financial status.
The finance committee continuously monitors cash flow and costs.
“We continue to work hard to bring our debt down,” Beer said. “We have eliminated almost one half of our debt due to the support of the public and the implementation of sound business practices.”
By continuing to reduce the debt, which stands at about $133,000, the playhouse will be able to present more productions and other events to the community.
“We also are challenged to keep the infrastructure (our buildings) in good condition so that everyone will enjoy a great experience at Mountain Playhouse,” he said.
Beer’s dedication to the board stems from his love of live performances. He has written and acted in several Good Friday plays over the past 30 years. He also has written two religious plays which were performed on the Mountain Playhouse stage.
“I think live theater is something everyone should experience,” he said. “The quality seen from our stage is something that I am most proud of and I believe it is sometimes under-appreciated by our community.”
He and other board members strive to preserve the playhouse so future generations can enjoy live professional theater in a most beautiful setting.
Board of directors
Officers and members of the board of directors of Mountain Playhouse are:
Chairman: The Rev. Joseph Beer, Gray.
Vice chairwoman: Jacqueline Martella, Boswell.
Treasurer: Kevin Vaughn, Pittsburgh.
Member: R. Walter Bashaw II, Pittsburgh.
Member: Jason E. Miller, Bedford.
Member: Rebecca Brubaker Roberts, Westmont.
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