On Sept. 20, East Lynne Theater Company will present the world premiere of James Rana’s “A Year in the Trenches,” a work commissioned by the New Jersey Historical Commission and New Jersey State Council on the Arts to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States’ involvement in World War I. It isn’t East Lynne’s first world premiere, yet “A Year in the Trenches” is a milestone for the nonprofit, Equity Professional company and for its artistic director Gayle Stahlhuth, as it is the 100th production under Stahlhuth’s artistic direction.
After serving on East Lynne’s board of directors from 1987 until 1997, Stahlhuth became Artistic Director in 1999 upon the death of East Lynne’s founder Warren Kliewer. Although an accomplished actor, having appeared in numerous national tours, on television and in off-Broadway shows, she was certainly no stranger to the production aspects of East Lynne or its mission to present American stage classics. With a resume that also included stage managing, lighting design and costume creation, Stahlhuth took the creative reigns of East Lynne, guiding it forward into its most successful period since its founding in 1980.
In any given season, one can experience Stahlhuth’s multi-faceted talents as she skillfully directs a wide and diverse range of productions from the timeless comedies of George S. Kauffman, to 2016’s dark classic “Dracula,” to Stahlhuth’s own adaptation of O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief” in 2009. That’s not to say Stahlhuth rests on her laurels once a show is mounted and has opened. Ever the hands-on artistic director, Stahlhuth can often be seen embracing her first love of acting as she often appears in her productions. Such was the case this past summer when, with an Irish accent and emerald green work dress, she appeared as Nora, the colorful and lovable housemaid to the Millers in Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness!”
So invaluable and unique to the heritage of American theater is Stahlhuth’s work as Artistic Director, Ohio State University archives scripts, photos, playbills and reviews of each East Lynne production. East Lynne Theater Company and its board of directors remains grateful to Gayle Stahlhuth, under whose hard work and dedication this one-of-a-kind theater company has woven itself perfectly into the unique fabric that is Cape May, New Jersey.
East Lynne Theater Company’s mainstage productions are performed at the First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes St., Cape May. Dates and reservation information about Stahlhuth’s 100th East Lynne production, “A Year in the Trenches,” can be found at www.eastlynnetheater.org or by calling (609) 884-5898.