Vaulted ceilings painted with esoteric symbols and walls laden with heavy, austere woodwork all hint at Greystone Hall's mysterious first life as a Masonic temple. The architectural details in the elegant Akron social hall built by the secretive fraternal order in 1917 also make for a compelling theater venue.
"The first time I walked into the theater space that we're in now, I thought, It just shouts Shakespeare," recalls Neil Thackaberry, founder and artistic director of Actors' Summit, a small professional theater company he manages with his wife, MaryJo Alexander. The couple moved Actors' Summit from downtown Hudson to the reclaimed Masonic Temple in August. It was a homecoming of sorts.
Actors' Summit performed Romeo and Juliet, along with three other plays at Greystone Hall more than a decade ago. The hall was the theater company's first home in 1999, but after a developer purchased the property and started renovations, Actors' Summit was forced to find alternative — and less architecturally romantic — lodgings.
"Basically, it's a return to the city, to the urban core, which is where we always intended to be located," Thackaberry says. "We wanted to be part of that larger cultural life that only a larger city can create."
In honor of the new digs, Actors' Summit has a modern focus this season with performances of the contemporary comedy Becky's New Car and the youthful Romantic Fools. A show with the theme of modern love, Fools blends vignettes and off-beat sketches, including one that explores the farcical scenario of a blind date with a caveman.
"Our focus as a theater has always been to create an experience that will span the range of theater," Thackaberry says. "We've done everything from classic Greek tragedies to contemporary comedies, and we try to create, within each season, a mix that will be intellectually challenging and things that are 'sit back, enjoy yourself, and laugh a lot."