Clarion group to perform in fundraiser for Sawmill

Performing artists from three local organizations, including from Clarion, are banding together this week to support the Verna Leith Theater in Cook Forest.

Commonly referred to as the “Sawmill Theater,” the rustic stage has been home to many local productions since it opened in the 1970s.

Verna Leith and her husband, William, owned and operated “Scotty’s Restaurant” in Cook Forest and organized the Cook Forest Visitors Bureau. But Verna Leith’s true love was the theater that bears her name.

The theater opened in 1981 using church pews and camp chairs for seating. Almost all of the performers are from local theater groups who are all volunteers. In addition to the theater group from Clarion, groups from Punxsutawney and DuBois will perform.

The arrangement with the Sawmill allows the theater to keep 40 percent of the ticket sales. Volunteer groups provide concessions.

“The Sawmill is a wonderful venue,” said Karen Allgeier, president of the Brookville Community Theater. “It is a unique experience for many of our performers who have never experienced theater in the round.

“The Sawmill Theater needs money. It is that simple. To help fund the theater, three groups are coming together this Saturday night for a variety show. This show is for one night only and every penny will be given to the Sawmill.”

Allgeier, who recently directed “The Wizard of Oz” at the Sawmill, said there will be 10 acts in the show. She said Zoey Girty, who played the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” and Ellie Wingard, who played Dorothy, will join the show.

Dancers from the Clarion Center for the Arts and singers from the Reitz Theater in DuBois will perform. The curtain will go up at 8 p.m.

“We will have everything from opera to comedy,” Allgeier said.