In a case of “rising tides lifting all boats,” the reopening of the Gateway Playhouse has brought another theater production group out of retirement. Fool Moon Theatre Company will shine again, making its return to the Gateway with a production of “Our Town,” 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 3, 4, 10 and 11, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5 and 12.
The rise and fall of Fool Moon Theatre Co.
Fool Moon débuted in 2005, headed by Executive Director Paul Herron and his wife Patricia. Before that, Herron had been involved with productions at the Gateway and in Margate, before deciding to break out on his own. Shows like “Sylvia” by A. R. Gurney, “The Fantasticks” by Harvey Schmidt and “Bus Stop” by William Inge were brought to life by Fool Moon. Then, after several productive years, it slowed down.
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“Life intrudes,” Herron recalls. “We did shows for about six years, and in 2010 we thought maybe we’ll just take a break. I was executive director of the Bay Atlantic Symphony at the time, and that was taking up a lot of time. In 2012 we got at it again with Atlantic City Theater (company), and we were putting together shows at Dante Hall. It became too much again, but community theater is a different animal. It’s a lot of energy, and you work for free. It’s not that it’s bad work, and some of our people are tremendous, but it gets to be difficult.
“You need to have a good team,” he adds, “And that’s what we have here now.”
A gateway to new beginnings
Herron’s “good team” needed a good home, which they happily found in the newly re-opened Gateway Playhouse.
“The Gateway is brand new. It has a lot of buzz around it. I had worked with Jim (COO of the Gateway) and Debby Dalfonso a long time ago ... We’ve worked together a lot,” Herron says.
The Gateway had a starry opening gala in August, with former “Annie” star Andrea McArdle headlining the event. Its previous history is not as glamorous. The Gateway was acquired by the town of Somers Point in 2006. An unusable structure, it had damages that would require 10 years of fundraising and hard work to repair. Fortunately, a dedicated team led by Executive Director Keith Cooper came together to reopen the historic theater, giving a landing place to theater companies like the Shaken Not Stirred Players and, now, Fool Moon.
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“We’re always looking for new productions,” Herron says of the future. “We’re considering staying at the Gateway as long as we can. It’s a great location, as is the city of Somers Point.”
‘Our Town’ in our town
Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Our Town” will usher in a new age of productions for Fool Moon Theatre Co.
“It looks very simple. It looks like it’s just about life, but it expands into the meaning of life and how people need to be aware of every moment. It’s invigorating and enlivening,” Herron says of the play.
“Our Town” is a canonical example of American playwriting, studied by theater majors and high school students alike. Using metatheatrical devices, it tells of small town life in the fictional town of Grover’s Corner, following the lives, deaths and afterlives of its inhabitants.
Though written nearly 80 years ago, “Our Town” carries with it a theme all too applicable to modern life, says Herron.
“‘Our Town’ was chosen by my wife Patricia — she is directing. She read the show and thought it was so contemporary,” he tells. “It deals with so much that we face as a country. It speaks to what it means to be alive every day. Life becomes more meaningful, the arguments aren’t there, you become a community. It’s important to speak to that, especially for the local community as it opens up a new theater.”