The concept of a local summer theater began with a young dance instructor, a group of enthusiastic Westlake High School Football players, and a dream. The dance instructor was Rose Cremonese, now Rose Norton, owner of Rose’s School of Dance and Westlake’s annual high school musical choreographer. The football players, Tom Darby, Steve Desidore, Owen Cottle, and Pete Mastropietro were first introduced to performing arts when they danced, sang and acted in the high school production of West Side Story. The dream came following high school graduation when the boys asked Rose to start a summer theater. Rose thought this would be a great way to provide the community with summer entertainment all while keeping the teenagers active in a wholesome, productive way. So, with the encouragement of these young men and the dedication and determination of Rose, in the summer of 1970, the dream became a reality. However, before moving forward, some important details had to be resolved; in other words, the who, what, when, where and how.
First, Rose elicited the help of a few key people including Sue Delaney, Laura DeSanto, and Justine Muller. They decided on a name, Mt. Pleasant Summer Stock, and it’s first production, The Boyfriend. Auditions would be open to ages 15-25 and would be performed in August. That took care of the who, what and when, but where would they perform and how would they finance the cost of royalties, construction of scenery, costumes, advertising and all other expenses associated putting on a musical?
Finding support wasn’t easy. But those who know Rose know she never gives up and sooner rather than later she made contact with John Whearty (at that time, principal of Westlake High School) and was granted permission to perform at the high school. But it was costly to rent out space for rehearsals every night, so Rose had another idea. Why not have rehearsals on Sundays at my house? The basement was turned into an audition studio and each Sunday during the summer, rehearsals were held in her front yard. Benches were set up, the piano in Rose’s house was rolled to the window and with windows wide open, singing was clearly accompanied. Scenery building was going on at the same time lead by Ralph Cremonese and Lloyd Stakebake. To top it off, each Sunday the parents of the performers would bring food and barbeque while rehearsals were going on. The neighbors would set up their lawn chairs and watch the singing, dancing and acting and when the cast broke for break, everyone would sit down and share in a huge barbequed feast!
Eventually, as the shows of early years proved successful, Mt. Pleasant Summer Stock began receiving support from the community, including the Mt. Pleasant Recreation Department and the Thornwood/Hawthorne Chamber of Commerce.
After several years, the theater group incorporated and the name changed to Mt. Pleasant Community Theatre. Now ready to perform their 45th show, Guys and Dolls, the community theater, under the direction of Rose C. Norton, is as strong as ever, providing top-notch theater and entertainment for the whole family.
A side note: While originally the age of performers was geared to the high school/college aged students (15-25), as the original cast members got older and older, so did the age limit go higher and higher. Many “old timers” come back year after year. But there was one person in particular that continued uninterrupted from the time he was a teenager until he moved across country at age 40. Each year he begged Rose to raise the age - and each year she did. This dear friend of Rose’s and to many original cast members was Andy Eschen, the one most responsible for there now being no age limit to perform in Mt. Pleasant Community Theatre shows.