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Snapshot: Millbrook Playhouse Artistic Director David Leidholdt

by on July 03, 2017 11:48 AM

The summer theater season is well under way at the Millbrook Playhouse. The actors are performing, and the tech crews are working their magic, hanging lights and sewing costumes.

At the center of this creative vortex is Artistic Director David Leidholdt. More than anyone else, he is responsible for the shows selected for production this straw hat season.

In his fourth summer at Millbrook, Leidholdt is particularly proud of the selections for 2017.

“We have tried to satisfy all the demographic groups in our audience,” he says. “We have a lot more competition than we used to have, so we have to be diverse.”

Leidholdt scored a dramatic coup for the Millbrook audience by acquiring rights to Fun Home, the Tony Award-winning Best Musical that is set in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania, just a few miles from the Millbrook Playhouse.

“I didn’t think we would be able to secure the rights, but we took a chance and asked anyway,” he says. He assumed that Fun Home was years away from a local production. Happily, he was wrong and the license was granted.

Fun Home is based on the life of Alison Bechdel, whose graphic novel dealt with her own sexuality and her father’s deep secrets. The troubled family was brought to the musical stage by Lisa Kron, with music composed by Jeanine Tesori.

Leidholdt notes the strong connection between Bechdel’s story and the musical that will be presented at the Millbrook.

“Our board of directors has reached out to Alison and her family,” he says. “There is a definite synchronicity with the story and the Millbrook Playhouse.”

In fact, Bechdel’s mother performed on the Millbrook stage in the 1970s in The Importance of Being Earnest, and her father was on the Millbrook board for many years.

Now their life story will be presented to a contemporary audience.

The story depicts Alison Bechdel’s struggles as a lesbian living in rural Central Pennsylvania. And it is complicated by her relationship with her father.

“She wrote a graphic novel about growing up in Beech Creek,” says Leidholdt. “Her relationship to her father, while troubled, was central to her life.”

Bechdel’s father, a funeral home director, is believed to have committed suicide. Alison was shocked to learn of his secret life, his bisexuality, which was more than confusing to her.

Fun Home is described as a memory play and its narrative is very non-linear.

“It is not a traditional musical,” says Leidholdt. “It’s a serious musical that gives us an opportunity to go deeper into the problems faced by homosexuals.”

Despite its serious subject, and its mildly controversial story, Fun Home has been embraced by the local community, knowing that the story takes place in their back yard.

“I would say the reaction has been 100 percent positive,” says Leidholdt.

It is a unique story, a kind of play-within- a- play- within- a- reality, being performed in the very place the story is set.

“You can literally drive by the ‘Fun Home’” says Leidholdt. “It’s still there, in Beech Creek.”

Fun Home will be performed from July 28 through August 6 at the Millbrook Playhouse in Mill Hall, a few miles from Beech Creek. Harry Zimbler is a freelance writer and theater instructor from Pennsylvania Furnace.


Harry Zimbler is a freelance writer who focuses on business issues.
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