The Squirrel Cage Theatre Company was founded in 1974 by a group of local thespians as a vehicle to generate funds to maintain and improve the Town Hall, the former multipurpose room of the old North Fork School, which had been sold to the townspeople for $1.00. The North Fork Boosters were created some time later, to take over that responsibility and SCT broke off on their own, while still contributing to the upkeep and making improvements to the stage and dressing room in particular. Recently SCT has re-united and become an “entertainment committee” of the Boosters.
Ray Ensher, a teacher at North Fork School and Gwen Keyes, a former Las Vegas showgirl, started the group. Keyes christened the group in honor of all the squirrels which inhabited the area “and a number of squirrely actors.” Old timers may remember the little toy squirrel which, in the early days of SCT, peered out of its cage just inside the door of North Fork Town Hall where tickets to performances were sold.
Over the years the group has entertained the community with “Gay ’90’s Revues”, Melodramas, dramatic and musical productions, and has become a sponsor of various local performance endeavors, particularly those involving young people. These included the annual Young Peoples Theatre Workshop (retired), the North Fork School 8th Grade Play, and various other school related events. SCT gives a Theatre Achievement Award to recognize graduates of North Fork School having contributed to live theatre with the school drama program or with the SCT. Two $500 scholarships are also given to local high school graduating students going into the theatre arts.
One of the things that has happened over the years in the Squirrel Cage that has perhaps defined, to some degree, the personality and character of the group has been the participation of entire families in the production of shows. Many of SCT member’s children have grown up around productions and started helping with setting up, stage work and then taking on adult role as they got older. There has been a common thread of inclusion which has enriched the community in ways that are intangible yet undeniable.
Squirrel Cage has afforded an avenue for local artists to express their various talents, not just on stage at SCT shows. The musical group “The Sugar Pine Trio” was created out of Chuck Thrapp, Pam Richerson and David Novell’s participation in SCT productions. Later after Richerson moved from the area, Robyn Flory, after performing in a SCT show, joined the group. Several years later the trio became “Sugar Pine” when Gina (DeMasters) Clugston joined the group, again after participating in SCT shows. Clugston added another gift to the community by creating the North Fork Community Choir, which has become a popular attraction to many of the shows.
For the past 37 years Squirrel Cage Theatre Company has been entertaining the mountain area. There are a lot of loyal members, generous spirits and talented people in the town of North Fork and its environs who enjoy being involved and contributing to their community. Old timers sometimes move on but newcomers do move in. This group is proud to be a family in itself and families tend to hold together.
The Squirrels, as they are affectionately known, always feel like they get back more than they give from our wonderfully supportive community. In the years to come, Squirrel Cage Theatre Company looks forward to continuing as a closely knit, community-based and family oriented place for those who enjoy laughing and crying together onstage and off.
SCT invites you to experience the wonderful world of live entertainment. Our next event to mark on your calendars is the “Spring Fling”, Friday April 20 and Saturday April 21 at North Fork Town Hall. The doors open at 5:30pm and dinner is served from 6:00pm to 7:00pm with the show immediately following. This year’s show includes performances by “Sugar Pine”, Amy Duke and the North Fork Community Choir.
If you’ve ever imagined yourself on stage, don’t hold back! There are many jobs other than acting or singing that make the Squirrel Cage Theatre productions successful. Get involved with your friends and neighbors in this wonderful community group, and have fun! To join our group, or for any other information, call Sue Novell 877-2129 or Gina Clugston 877-3030.