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June 24, 2013

Theater season to start in restored building

By Mark Simonson Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — There will be a little showing off, in addition to a show, at the Franklin Stage Company this weekend. 

The show before the show will begin as visitors approach and observe the historic Chapel Hall, the home of the company, which boasts the results of an exterior restoration project more than four years in the making. 

According to Carmela Marner, executive and artistic director of FSC, the 1854 building needs plenty of routine maintenance simply because of its age. But, Marner explained, side effects from the flood of 2006, with all the water in the air, gave the exterior of the building a beating. Large quantities of mold were found in the massive columns in the front of the building, and it affected the foundation in the basement and other parts of the façade.

Funding from the 1772 Foundation enabled FSC to repair, restore and paint Chapel Hall’s façade, as well as 17 original windows, two doors and the five front columns. Another grant, from the George A. and Margaret Mee Charitable Foundation, provided an 80-foot front porch floor, supports and wood decorations at the base of the columns.

The second round of the restorations began more recently. Through a combination of funding from the Village of Franklin Main Street Program, administered by the Delaware County Local Development Corporation; the Mee Foundation; the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation; the 1772 Foundation; Assael Inc. and Sylvia Sichel, restoration and painting of the remaining windows, siding and trim on the west, north and east sides of Chapel Hall were completed.

All work was done by local and regional companies, including Red Point Builders of Cherry Valley, Second Nature Construction of Delhi and Cohen & Frazier of Franklin.

While the building has been hosting FSC productions for many years, it didn’t start out life as a theater. Chapel Hall was built in 1854 as part of the Delaware Literary Institute. It was gifted in 1909 to the Franklin Lodge #562 of the Free & Accepted Masons, who gifted it in 1997 to FSC. 

From the time it took ownership of the building, the group kept the building open while undertaking restorations. The building is also the site for the Franklin Farmers’ Market each Sunday. 

Ongoing fundraising for Chapel Hall is separate from that for the programming of the theater, but the two are nevertheless linked.

“The theater company wouldn’t exist without its home,” Marner said, “but really the home had no one to look after it, as the Masons couldn’t keep it up anymore due to dwindling memberships. The building also wouldn’t exist without the theater company. It’s a beautiful symbiosis.”

The Franklin Stage Company will present its first house production of the season on Friday: two one-act comedies, “Village Wooing” by George Bernard Shaw, and “A Door Must be Kept Open or Shut” by Alfred de Musset. All presentations are free, but donations are accepted. For more details visit