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Drama Group reopens for performances marking 90 years of theater

The Drama Group survived through a year of COVID and is ready to celebrate its 90th season of theater in the South Suburbs with a line-up of plays and musicals starting Oct. 1.

Founded in 1931 by the Chicago Heights Women’s Club, the Drama Group has evolved into one of the oldest continuous volunteer drama groups in the country. It has a lot to celebrate and Andy Leahy, president of the Drama Group’s board of directors, said “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” will kick off the year of shows. 

The schedule also includes “Sweat,” presented in December, “Doubt,” presented in February, “Crowns,” presented in April and May, and “Leading Ladies” in August. 

The Drama Group will welcome performers from The Stables Theater of Hasting, England, in June for their presentation of “Run for Your Wife.”

“Because of COVID, we simply canceled the whole 2020-21 season,” Leahy said. “We couldn’t do any shows in (that year) and we still wanted to celebrate 90 years, so we just made this the 90th season.”

During COVID, Drama Group performers did stream play readings as a way to keep an audience and provide entertainment to the community. Leahy said they were well received by online viewers. 

Unfortunately, the Drama Group missed out on a grant that would have supported continuing that effort, so Leahy said at this point streaming presentations won’t be an option.

“We’ll try and video some of the shows we’re planning to do, but we won’t be able to do the musicals,” due to licensing restrictions, Leahy said.

As with all nonprofits, volunteers and donations keep things running smoothly, but with doors closed for a full season Drama Group dipped into savings to make it through the last year. The Illinois Arts Council is a major supporter, and Drama Group did receive other grants. It’s hoping to generate ticket revenue and will be applying for grants this year to help it update some of its equipment, Leahy said. 

For now, the performers are back. Dancers and musicians are in rehearsal for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” 

Leahy, a 31-year member of Drama Group, is directing the show that’s a satire of big business presented through humor, romance and song. It is a winner of seven Tony Awards.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1, 2 and 7, and at 2 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the Drama Group home base, the Milord Theater, 330 W. 202nd Street in Chicago Heights..

The Drama Group is using an online ticketing service. For details on tickets and play productions visit dramagroup.org.

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