When a person dies, there is an obituary. There’s generally a ceremony with tears and hugs, prayers and eulogies. We survey photos capturing split seconds of a life that touched ours. We share stories and memories proving our friend, lover, parent, aunt or cousin lives on in those of us left behind. No one has an ill word to say.
If only there was such reassuring closure with the expiration of a collective as complex as a theater company.
Founded in 1992 by Zeve Ben-Dov, The Northeastern Theatre Ensemble evolved first into TNT – The Northeast Theatre – before restructuring in 2006 to become Scranton’s Electric Theatre Company. It worked in the Scranton Cultural Center’s Shopland Hall before moving to The Theatre in Brooks at Keystone College in La Plume and finally to the historic Hotel Jermyn in downtown Scranton. It gave Northeastern Pennsylvania a cosmopolitan caliber of culture to which it could point with pride before announcing its closure earlier this month.
It touched thousands of audience members, trained and inspired emerging talents, and gave studied artists the opportunity to continue growing while practicing their craft professionally.
Its energy is scattered now, but the life Electric Theatre Company’s two decades have left behind will appear undeniable as new endeavors and initiatives move in to fill the vacuum. In the meantime, we’ve combed through the archives to assemble a tribute to the moments and shows that made us laugh, cry, think, wonder, question, and hope.
"The (Scranton Cultural Center) is proud to present the first production of newly formed The Northeast Theatre ensemble. TNT will perform George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man." – The Sunday Times, Scranton
"Director (Zeve) Ben-Dov has tackled difficult theater, but in keeping with the philosophy of his theater group, nothing is impossible." – The Scranton Times arts editor Michelle D. Solomon on the second season opener featuring Ionesco’s The Lesson and The Bald Soprano.
"The more I looked at this hall, the more I realized it is really Chekhovian. It has faded grandeur, it’s needful of upkeep. And the more I looked at it, the less I needed to do with it." – director David Crommett on the Scranton Cultural Center’s Shopland Hall during rehearsals for Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov.
"I am now looking forward to the challenge of writing the autobiographical, one-man show that has been on the back burner for too long." – Zeve Ben-Dov in announcing his resignation as artistic director of The Northeastern Theatre Ensemble in The Scranton Times.
"Right from the start, Mr. Ben-Dov wanted TNT to tackle the best plays available, choosing the hard work involved to the easier path of offering so-called hit shows which might entertain slightly but really didn’t have much to offer either those on stage or in the audience." – Sid Benjamin in The Sunday Times
"With practice and more direction, maybe (TNT’s) students upstairs at Shopland (Hall) might someday be performing with professional troupes downstairs. – Joseph F. Caputo, The Scranton Times
"Artistic director (Donna) Kaz said there will be a focus on staging new works and works by recent contemporary playwrights, although the company has always tried to stage works other than mysteries, comedies and middlebrow fare." – Kenneth Jones, Playbill.com
"I learned that if you always wanted to be a rodeo star, just go horseback riding one afternoon. Big dreams start with just a little step. If you don’t take that one little, scary step, you’ll never know what’s out there." – Elizabeth Feller Markowitz, then-executive director of The Northeastern Theatre Ensemble, in The Scranton Times.
"It’s a world premiere. We’re the first people to ever play these parts. This will be the opportunity of a lifetime." – actor Dina Piepoli on performing in Joan by then-TNT artistic director Donna Kaz.
"It was the most thought-provoking play I’d ever seen. People were arguing for weeks about what that play meant, and I said, ‘If this is the kind of thing they’re going to be doing, I want to be a part of it.’" – Phil Graff, then-president of TNT’s Board of Directors, on the company’s production of mid-’90s production of Oleanna by David Mamet.
"The absolute beauty of this production is that it embraces theater in its purest fashion – actor, passion and some light." – Times-Tribune theater critic Joseph Caputo on Richard Grunn’s The O. Henry Conspiracy.
"If you are only going to see one local play this season, make it The Northeast Theatre’s production of Larry Shue’s Wenceslas Square. – The Times-Tribune theater critic Joseph Caputo.
"Subtlety has now vanished from our vocabulary." – director Terry Rabine in rehearsal for Reverse Psychology by Charles Ludlam, according to actor Leigh Strimbeck to electric city.
"There are few things more exciting for a theater critic than happening upon something fresh, something filled with energy, vitality, originality and most of all passion for the art of theater. The Northeast Theatre Ensemble is creating that excitement locally." – The Times-Tribune theatre critic Joseph Caputo
"We’re hoping to keep the group together, We’re calling this our first scenario
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and then we’re hoping to get other scenarios that we can all improvise and work together on." – artistic director David Zarko introducing Zuppa del Giorno in advance of its first modern commedia performance Noble Aspirations.
"My point of view is always that I just want to go places where people are avidly interested in doing whatever it is I’m wanting to do." – playwright Mark Medoff in advance of The Northeast Theatre’s world premiere of The Same Life Over.
"All faults aside, The Same Life Over is the most promising full-length play staged regionally this year. Medoff has the wherewithal to take the show far beyond Northeast Pennsylvania and rarely do we have the opportunity to participate in such a crucial moment of the script development process." – electric city/diamond city critic Alicia Grega on the world premiere production of the Mark Medoff play.
"It just seems like when I walk around (Scranton) that it’s a ripe place for cool things to happenâ¦ there are these incredible buildings and incredible streets and I can easily see the city taking off in a major way. I feel like I’m on the ground floor of something that can go very big someday and I really hope that’s true." – Don Wildman, Los Angeles-based actor and director of the Lackawanna Rails radio theatre series.
"What do you do with a big room with no windows? You put a theater in it." – David Zarko in advance of TNT’s move to old ballroom of the Hotel Jermyn.
"I’m personally very selfishly pleased that Zuppa del Giorno is doing the first show in this space. And that we’re getting to use the space roughly as it was – raw – which is honoring both its past and hopefully its future with TNT." – actor Jeff Wills on Silent Lives opening the theater’s new home on the second floor of the historic Hotel Jermyn.
"There’s no better place to take a date than The Northeast Theatre. What gal isn’t waiting for a fella to ask her to the theater? Right?" – illustrator Ted Michalowski in electric city/diamond city’s Up Close and Personal
"Orvieto and Scranton have some interesting things in common. They’re both towns that bottomed out economically about 30 years ago, and both have staked their revivals on becoming regional centers of culture and the arts. It’s working in Orvieto. It will work here, too." – David Zarko upon the company’s return from In Bocca al Lupo commedia training
"I suppose an affinity for melodrama is natural for anyone growing up around here." – actor/designer Jim Langan on The Poor of Scranton in The Times-Tribune’s Namedropper
"For as real and unassuming as Almost, Maine is, the play delivers one magical moment after another. … It’s the first play in a long time that I instantly wanted to see again. Almost, Maine is almost perfect." – electric city/diamond city critic Alicia Grega on the John Cariani play.
"An American Wife is a gift we’ve waited too long to open. Unwrap it with your grandmother and your 10-year-old nephew and marvel at its touching, funny, familiar and brave contents." – electric city/diamond city critic Alicia Grega on the world premiere production of the play by regional residents Karen Blomain and Michael Downend
"We’re trying to touch on the fact of how important Scranton was during vaudeville, which even as it was dying … all the big names were still coming here. The radio theater in The (Scranton) Times building was very functional. The Poli was just around the corner, and there was the Jermyn, which was just really hitting its heyday." – actress Heather Stuart on Zuppa del Giorno’s Prohibitive Standards
"You’ll want to pinch the cheeks of the face it puts on local history." – electric city/diamond city critic Alicia Grega on the Liz Feller and Ed Simpson musical The Amazing Goldin.
"It’s a Christmas present for the folks from Scranton. We hope they’re there to open it." – producing artistic director David Zarko on that year’s benefit parlor reading of his adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
"Lives of the Saints features (Heather) Stuart and (Michaela) Moore as two little, old Polish ladies preparing an extravagant funeral breakfast in the basement of St. Stanislaus. The one over on Elm Street in South Side? It might as well be." – electric city/diamond city critic Alicia Grega on Time, Timing, Timeless by David Ives.
"I personally need a community, both in the artistic sense and in the social sense and I’m excited to begin to have that here in Scranton." – actress Heather Stuart upon the company’s redesign as the Electric Theatre Company
"A lot of major theaters have a resident company, and now Scranton finally has one." – actor Conor McGuigan
"(Brilliant Traces) may be the most marvelous theatrical experience I’ve had in the last year, probably two. … I hope the lack of name recognition doesn’t keep people away. I’m inclined to argue it’s the shows you haven’t heard of that you most need to see." – electric city/diamond city critic Alicia Grega.
"The whole idea was to have a place where we can develop work and ideas. I wanted to do something that involved many different kinds of people, not just actors. And from all different parts of the community." – director Heather Stuart on the Out on a Limb series offering of Unrehearsed Shakespeare.
"Oh, isn’t life a terrible thing, thank God?" – Polly Garter (portrayed by Welsh actress Gwenfair Vaughan) in Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
Regional playwright Nancy Hasty and Electric Theatre Company proved that top-quality, poignant and entertaining dark comedy can be grown and harvested right here in Scranton. – electric city/diamond city critic Alicia Grega on the March 2010 production of Lawnchairs.
"There’s nothing like a good Minooka joke to warm the cockles of Scranton’s collective heart." – electric city/diamond city critic Alicia Grega on The Puppeteers.