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Delmar man gives Park Playhouse new direction

BCHS grad Owen Smith has big plans for summer and beyond

Owen Smith got his start in theater in Delmar, on the stage of Bethlehem Central High School. And now, after making his way to The Big Apple, he's returning to the Capital District to head up the Albany-based Park Playhouse, Inc., and he has big plans for the free theater company.

As producing artistic director, Owen Smith wants to reinvigorate the nonprofit group after one of the poorest seasons in the program's 21-year history.

Smith will be heading up a production of Annie Get Your Gun, musical that is undeniably cemented in the American theatrical experience. While the arts in general are suffering from recession-minded spending, a conservative audience is actually an opportunity for the Playhouse to expand its influence by offering a cheap, but artistic, evening, Smith said.

"If you're going to have a cultural experience, it almost has to be free," he said.

And to keep the seats full, Smith wants to keep the programming aimed at providing an experience that can't be seen on television or DVD. Last year, for example, bringing "High School Musical" to the stage failed to woo a family crowd.

"It's about providing programming that is unique, and is uniquely theatrical," Smith said.

A Delmar native, Smith said he largely learned the trade under the direction on James Yeara, who still teaches theater at the high school, and in the Park Playhouse Kidz program. He continued to study theater at New Paltz and struck out into acting gigs, including a stint on the national tour of "Fiddler on the Roof."

"I realized pretty quickly that a life as an actor wasn't for me," he said.

Smith branched out into directing, then management, opening The Clockwork Theater in Manhattan, which he is still involved in.

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