Puttin’ on the Ritz, One Brick at a Time

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HAWLEY -- A historic theater in Wayne County will have a whole new welcome mat when shows premiere this summer.

People can be immortalized in bricks at the Ritz and help the playhouse in Hawley return to its former glory.

For the better part of a century, the Ritz has stood in downtown Hawley. First a movie theater then, in the early 70's, it became home to community theater.

Over the years, the non-profit that runs the Ritz Company Playhouse has done a lot to keep the exterior appealing. Over the weekend, the sidewalk out front was torn up to make way for the latest improvement.

"It really has taken a lot of determination, continuing to move forward," said Ritz Company Playhouse board member Sandy Gabrielson.

In order to move forward, Gabrielson hopes people who care about the playhouse will want to look back. Engraved brick pavers are for sale.

"People buying the bricks could memorialize either a performance they did or a family member, and in the same token beautify the sidewalk," he said.

"Once these brick pavers are in place outside the Ritz Company Playhouse they'll make things a whole lot more beautiful on the outside, but also on the inside."

"We're hopefully going to be redoing the ceiling, cleaning light fixtures, the carpets are getting replaced this summer, just trying to update all the surfaces," said Ritz stage manager Sarah Clauss.

Clauss figures it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix up the inside of the Ritz, but with the help of grant money and each brick out front, the folks behind the playhouse see a way to get it done.

In fact, the Ritz has meant a lot to Diane Arigot who runs a business next to the playhouse. She bought a brick in memory of her father who recently passed away.

"My mother always made him go to the theater at least once or twice a year. And thought it'd be a good thing as neighbors to have a paver dedicated to him," said Arigot.

With more than 150 bricks spoken for already, the sidewalk in front of the Ritz should be finished well before the first show this summer, "Noises Off," in early July.

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