by Ann Barfels
It all started when she was eight years old. Patricia Heffelfinger loved to produce plays with the neighborhood kids in Ridley Park, PA. Her love for theatre continued and she was always encouraged by her late husband Fred Furterer who she married in 1954. She continued performing with the Barnstormers in Ridley Park and then with the Battle Creek Civic Theatre in Michigan.
In 1977 Pat and Fred moved to Loveland. Pat went to audition at another local theatre but couldn’t find the address! She came home and told Fred, “I’m starting a community theatre company in Loveland!” And 40 years and 115 shows later, Loveland Stage Company is an active and vibrant part of the community.
The first meeting of the as-yet-unnamed theatre group was in the Furterer’s living room in the Pheasant Hills neighborhood on May 1979. Pat put an ad in the paper inviting anyone interested in starting a community theatre group. Those responding to that first meeting were: Dick and Deirdre Dyson; Betty Rajewski; Kathy and Ron Barrett; Dennis Novak; Roger Goldwire; Steve McGowan; Trish Williams; Diane and “Moldy” Moldenhauer; Kate Camele Arnold; Anne Woolley; John Schneider; Sue Lundy; Sally Housemeyer, Mary Ellen Camele and Kitty Kieffer. Kate Arnold is in the current production of “Cole” and Deirdre Dyson was the artistic director of the most recent production of “Mamma Mia”. Dick Dyson is currently on the board and Sue Lundy and John Schneider are still active members.
After deciding on the group’s name, the first show, “My Three Angels”, was presented in October of 1979 with two shows at the original Loveland Hurst High School on Lebanon road.
The Loveland Kiwanis Club was still active at this time and the two groups joined efforts for a few years. “Bye Bye Birdie” was presented in 1978 and was the final Kiwanis Kaper event.
Pat says the biggest hurdle the group has faced was finding a permanent home. At various times they have performed at the original Loveland Hurst High school, Shields Crossing (a restaurant now closed) Greater Loveland Historical Museum and at Nisbet Park. But they needed a permanent home. They received permission in 1997 from the City of Loveland to have a fundraiser for Loveland Stage company in the abandoned Crist movie theatre with the idea of eventually purchasing the building. “ There were no restrooms and no air conditioning and the building had been inhabited by “critters.” It was a mess” says Pat. The Loveland Fire Fighters Association, a non-profit group, purchased the theatre and leased it to the stage company for $1 a year. After 6 months, they gave the building to the group with certain stipulations. Pat attributes much of this effort to Otto Huber, Assistant Fire Chief at the time, and currently Fire Chief.
October 20, 2008, marked another, and more heartbreaking hurdle. In the early morning hours, a fire started in the upstairs of the theatre and quickly consumed the entire roof. Once again the Loveland Fire Department stepped up and immediately started a fund for repairing the damaged building. Pat remembers friends and neighbors giving her checks for the restoration and especially remembers one little boy who gave her the contents of his piggy bank so the building could be repaired. Peggy Goodwin wrote several grants which also helped with the backing. A campaign to raise funds “Rebuild and Play On” led by Deirdre Dyson helped to bring in necessary funds to get more repair work done. And 13 months later, the curtain opened at the renovated theatre with the Ohio premiere of “Miss Saigon”.
Besides founding the group, Pat has held every board office and is currently President Emeritus. She has also done every job necessary to produce a show from directing to producing to publicity to stage manager, etc. but has never done lighting or sound. Those that know Pat think that if the need was there, she would do that too!
Her all-time favorite role to perform was Mame in Bonnie Schanz’s production of “Mame” and her favorite all-time show that she has directed was the group’s first production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1986 with Chuck Wente as Tevye and Jeanne Smearsoll Welsh as Golde.
And in case any of you have heard the rumor, Pat says, “Yes, we do have a ghost! Mr. Crist comes to visit on occasion and loves to mess with our lighting equipment!”
Celebrating 40 years of award-winning, quality community theatre, with special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. and Derek Glynne, the Loveland Stage Company will present “Cole-An Entertainment – The Life and Fabulous Music of Cole Porter” opening November 1 through 17.
Come and see the group’s 40th year celebration “Cole – An Entertainment – The Life and Fabulous Music of Cole Porter” November 1-17 at the theatre located at 111 S. 2nd St. (Rt. 48) Loveland, 45140. Performances on Nov. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 are at 7:30 PM and on Sundays, November 3, 10 and 17 at 3 PM. Tickets are $20. For groups or handicapped seating call 513-443-4572 or visit the webpage at http://lovelandstagecompany.org.