Bill Corcoran first spotted the lounge at Judson Manor senior living center after moving there in 2013 with his partner, Mark Corcoran. He could envision the room as an intimate theater with a stage and seats filled with residents and community members.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of excuses not to do it,” says Bill, a retired Cleveland Play House musical director.
In fall 2016, the idea morphed into community theater upstart Theatre in the Circle.
“Judson has an ambitious music program, and we have visual arts,” says Mark. “But we didn’t have any regular theater programing here, and the residents who live here are longtime theatergoers.”
The couple has the experience to put on a good show. Mark, who previously worked in public relations, has been involved in theater since childhood. He even co-authored a musical and founded a cabaret theater group in Maryland during the ’70s.
Bill has composed 14 original musicals, served as music director for shows from My Fair Lady to Man of La Mancha, and taught music theory at Indiana University Southeast and Hanover College.
“Musical theater is the ultimate form of communication,” Bill says. “It’s a collaboration of words, music and images. That’s why I was so attracted to theater initially and why I chose to make a career of it.”
It’s also about pushing yourself artistically, says Mark. “Theater is not just pretending to be someone else, but an opportunity to get in touch with another, maybe unexplored, part of yourself,” he says. “Whether you’re acting or directing, it’s telling stories. And it’s magic. I’m a sucker for glitter, bright lights and rabbits hopping out of hats.”
Theatre in the Circle opened with Eddie! in the lounge. In February, it moved to the ballroom, where it sold out three performances of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well & Living in Paris.
Now, the Corcorans are preparing for a third show, I Do! I Do!, with five performances June 22-25 in the Judson ballroom.
Auditions are open to community members and professionals. The Corcorans select shows with small casts of just two to four actors, which suits the venues at Judson. The company includes members who create the set and costumes, all of which is overseen and artistically driven by the Corcorans. Cleveland Institute of Art students who are artists-in-residence at Judson have helped design and build sets.
“We are exploring the possibility of theater internships in backstage concerns: stage management, set design, sound, lights,” Mark says.
As for show selection, the Corcorans consider their seasoned audience. For example, I Do! I Do! is the story of a 50-year marriage, beginning on the wedding day and concluding with moving out of the family home.
“Residents will love watching a young couple as they wed, raise their children, suffer through their midlife crises and settle into retirement after their 50-year roller coaster ride of marriage,” Mark says.
For the couple, this theater company is an extension of their careers and a lifelong passion for the stage.
“We see what this theater has done for the community here, and people really look forward to it,” Mark says. “If we can touch lives, what else do we need?”