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Questions linger after theater closes

The decision to close the Wayside Theatre comes as a shock to many, and there are several questions that remain unanswered.

MIDDLETOWN, VA -- The decision to close the Wayside Theatre comes as a shock to many, and there are several questions that remain unanswered.

"I've had some great fun on the stage playing some comedic roles," said James Laster, who has been an actor at the Wayside Theatre for the last 12 years.

"I first worked at Wayside Theatre in 1996,” Laster said. “I came down and was cast in their production of Christmas Carol. I think I had all of two lines."

When the board announced the theater would be closing, it came as a disappointment for actors across the region and many who lost their jobs.

"I think it's a big blow to theater in general in the Northern Virginia area because first of all the tradition, historic tradition of the theater," Laster said.

Laster recalls newspapers from across the region would write play reviews about Wayside productions and bus tours would come down the coast to a Wayside show.

"Over the years, I think there's a little bit of lack in attendance from local people and not just Middletown, but in the area. There's no real reason to come to Middletown," he said.

Now, all is quiet at the Wayside at a time when many expected them to be welcoming customers in for the latest summer line-up.

The Wayside Theatre staff said they've been sending letters to their customers and loyal patrons to explain the closing. But, many in the community are still confused about how a theater that just announced a new season could soon after announce its final curtain call.

A letter hangs on the front doors of the theater explaining that after two emergency campaigns and a series of low-revenue producing plays, they had no alternative but to dissolve the company.

"I hope that the history and the story of Wayside and what it has brought theatrically to this area will not be forgotten," Laster said.

The Wayside Theatre's board of directors met Tuesday afternoon to discuss how they will move forward after the closing and what will happen to the historic theater.


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