In The Beginning, South Camden Theatre Company Was Just A Thought
The roots of the South Camden Theatre Company (SCTC) are deep, far deeper than the years during which we’ve been producing plays at the Waterfront South Theatre. An amazing convergence of vision, generosity, talent and hard work helped to form the company we’ve become. The vision was that of Father Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Church at Broadway and Ferry Avenue, who knew of a playwright, Joe Paprzycki, who he encouraged to bring his work to Camden, to a stage built by volunteers in the basement of the Sacred Heart Church. Joe would become the Founding Artistic Director of SCTC, but that was only the beginning.
The next stage of the convergence brought together Helene Pierson, Executive Director of The Heart of Camden, and Pepe Piperno. Heart of Camden, a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of the Waterfront South neighborhood, was having enormous success refurbishing and re-building homes in the neighborhood. Helene brought her savvy and her passion to building a theatre in Waterfront South. In a beautiful twist of historical serendipity, the site selected was none other than the site of Walt’s Café, a neighborhood taproom at the corner of 4th and Jasper Streets, run by Walt and Sue Evanuk until 1967. Walt and Sue were the grandparents of Joe Paprzycki. Plans to refurbish the old building on that corner had to be abandoned, though, because of the condition of the structure, so planning began immediately to tear it down and build a new theatre, funded by Pepe through his Domenica Foundation, named for his late mother. Walt and Sue’s experiences serving the men and women who worked at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation until its demise, provided the background for SCTC’s first fully staged production, Last Rites, in September of 2010.
The most common refrain we heard at that time was that “no one would come to see a play in Camden, especially at night”. The naysayers were wrong. Over 450 people came to that first four-week run to see Last Rites and thousands more have come since . . . to see our shows, participate in our fundraising events and to see music, dance, poetry and more on our stage, proof that the Arts are alive in South Camden. Since that first play, we’ve successfully produced many other full theatre seasons. Plays like The Exonerated, The Old Settler, and Eugene O’Neil’s Hughie, along with Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer, and The Night of the Iguana all have come to life on our stage.
So, the final phase of this convergence is you. Audiences that witness great performances at The Waterfront South Theatre become a part of our success story, a subplot to the greater renaissance of the City of Camden. With the opening of the Fireworks Art Center, The Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum, the soon-to-be-opened Nick Virgilio Writers’ House and the ongoing growth of the South Camden Theatre Company, it’s clear that the Arts are indeed alive in Waterfront South, thanks to the visionaries who imagined it, the volunteers and donors who made it possible and to you, the audience, that completes the circle.