Corn Stock tent is up, 60th season nearly here

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It's like watching an old-fashioned barn raising, with men pulling on ropes or attaching them to a vehicle to slowly pull a wall up and into place.

In this case, it's the annual raising of the tent at Corn Stock Theatre in Upper Bradley Park. With the theatre company's 60th season just about a month from starting, the tent was erected on Thursday, with the company's scads of volunteers set to converge this weekend to put everything else into place, such as light grids and speakers.

But theatre patrons may notice something different this year when they walk to the tent to catch one of the five shows that will be staged: The tent is no longer a solid green, as has been the case the last nine years.

Since 2004 the tent has come in panels that are slid onto a steel frame that stays up year-round. And since then it has been the one color, rather than the official green-and-yellow colors of Corn Stock and the colors of previous tents.

This year, however, two of those panels will be yellow. Theatre manager Cindy Hoey explained that it was a case where two of the panels had to be replaced because of normal wear and tear. However, because of the age of the remaining panels, the manufacturer was unable to match the green.

"So we went with yellow," said Hoey. "It's what we used to have so we thought it would be fun to do it again."

During a news conference to announce the 60th season while the tent was being erected in the background, Bob Parkhurst, a longtime member and former president of the organization, talked of the magic the tent brings to the park every year.

Noting Corn Stock was the first outdoor theatre in the round in Illinois when it started in with 70 charter members 1954, Parkhurst said the organization has grown not only in the number of people involved but in what it offers community theatre patrons. "Our family-friendly organization now has three branches" that can serve many types of community theatre fans, he added.

Besides the tent, Corn Stock has the Winter Playhouse, in a permanent structure a little further into the park. It is there where more non-musical plays are produced, more contemporary shows with a little more edge to them.

Also, the organization has Corn Stock For Kids, which caters to children and produces two or three shows each year as well as conducts an annual workshop every summer. It is now in its 16th season.

"To date, we have sold more than one million tickets to our productions here and we expect to sell many more as we go forward," Parkhurst said.

Mike Baietto, superintendent of the parks division for the Peoria Park District, said the district's partnership with Corn Stock has been one of its most successful partnerships through its history.

"We look forward to maintaining that partnership," he said.

The season begins May 31 with "The Music Man," directed by Peggy Breaux Hupp. It runs through June 8.

That is followed by the only non-musical of the season, "The Foreigner," which runs June 21 through June 29. Directed by Jeff Sloter, it will feature guest artist Steve Vinovich, a Peoria native who has been on Broadway, television and in films.

"Anything Goes" will be staged July 12 through July 20, directed by Travis Olson.

"The Wiz" will be Aug. 2 through Aug. 10, directed by Bryan Blanks.

"Company" will round out the season Aug. 23 through Aug. 31, directed by Nate Downs.

Individual shows are $18 for adults and $12 for students for musicals and $12 and $10 for "The Foreigner."

Season tickets are on sale now for $66. To purchase or order tickets call 676-2196 or visit www.cornstocktheatre.com.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).