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Forty Years Later, Center Stage In Shelton Continues To Evolve

Gary and Francesca Scarpa, artistic directors of Shelton's Center Stage Theatre, Inc.
Gary and Francesca Scarpa, artistic directors of Shelton's Center Stage Theatre, Inc. Photo Credit: Submitted

SHELTON, Conn. -- Gary and Francesca Scarpa, the artistic directors of Center Stage Theatre, Inc. in Shelton, are about to celebrate 40 years as a directing team -- and as a married couple.

The two, who met when they were in a college production at Southern Connecticut State College, started Center Stage in 2005, and say their passion for theater is key to their longevity.

"My wife and I joke that when we started we were Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a show," said Gary. "But then, through the years, you see the positive effects live theatre has on so many people and you realize you're doing so much more."

Catering to the community is a big part of the Scarpa's mission. And the community has responded in kind. The Theatre, a non-profit, 501-(c)3, organization, recently came in second place among the Great Give fundraising effort, with over 500 area donors giving $50,000. "We are very grateful for the support of the work we do," he said.

The goal of Center Stage is to enhance the cultural environment within the community and to present high quality theatrical productions at affordable prices; to encourage growth and education through the performing arts; and to provide a means for interested adults, teens and children to experience and participate in various aspects of live theater.

"I like to say we cater to those eight to 80," says Gary. "That's a really big part of our mission -- to make theater accessible for people of all ages."

Involving kids is a large part of their focus. Center Stage is presently running a theater education program in all of the Shelton schools (grades three to six) and, in the Fall, plans to begin a children's theater program with the goal of producing one or more shows just for kids.

Gary said running classes and giving talented children the opportunity to perform in plays is tremendously meaningful and confidence building. Center Stage's education program is directed by Scarpa's daughter, Gina Scarpa.

As for those 40-year plans, Gary said he's not sure (yet) what they may do to celebrate. "I'm not sure," he said. "We're too busy."

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