Inquirer: Devon Theater reopens in Mayfair

Devon artistic director Michael Pickering oversees a rehearsal of "Nunsense," the inaugural show for the new theater. AMANDA CEGIELSKI / Staff Photographer
Devon artistic director Michael Pickering oversees a rehearsal of "Nunsense," the inaugural show for the new theater. AMANDA CEGIELSKI / Staff Photographer

The Devon Theater‘s proud reopening on Frankford Avenue in Mayfair was detailed in yesterday’s Sunday Inquirer by theatre critic Howie Shapiro and me.

About 400 people, dressed for a gala, will take their seats Friday evening in what once was a dilapidated Frankford Avenue movie house. Three women in nun’s habits will pop up, administering parochial-school demands: Get rid of the gum! Flip off those cell phones!

The lights will dim, the loopy musical Nunsense will begin – and Northeast Philadelphia will have its first professional live-performance theater, in an area where many people (those in the Northeast included) may not expect to find one. Read the rest here.

Check out the genuinely interesting story, comment and then come back and see some extras below.

The Devon looks cleaned and modern inside, far from the decrepit and abandoned 65-year-old eyesore it was just five years ago. Getting an inside tour before most and doing so with Shapiro, an established critic for a big urban daily,  was another good reporting experience.

In theory, he was there for the theatre angle, and I was meant to cover the neighborhood side of things. Our double bylined story reflects that, as, while we reviewed and agreed on the final product together he wrote primarily the art side, and I covered the Mayfair reporting first. Then we came together.

I also covered the opening for, a Philly arts and entertainment blog, and for, a community site that covers Northeast Philadelphia. That means I wasn’t left with much excess.

I did have a colorful conversation with a retiree who lives near the Devon, bought tickets and then decided to volunteer to help it succeed. Her enthusiasm was more than I could encapsulate in even three stories. Here’s one story she told that had no sensible place anywhere but right here:

  • “I asked [the general manager] ‘how old do you think I am?’ He said 63 or 64, and I said, ‘I ought to buy 10 more tickets from you. No, I turned 76 in February,'” said Kathleen Murray, who lives within walking distance of the Devon. “He asked me what’s my secret, and I told him because everyone’s always asking what’s my secret. I told him my secret is scotch and skiing. I skiied for 35 years but had to stop because I have an artificial knee, but I still drink my share of scotch. So that’s my secret, plenty of skiing and scotch.”

Some other extras:

  • “I don’t think there’s a lot of performing options in residential areas.” said Karen DiLossi, the director of programs and services for the Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia.

See the Devon Theater reopening story here.

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