As Lucille Ball Little Theatre's 75th season draws to a close, promoters are already looking ahead to the next season.
Beginning in October, the 76th season is dedicated to late community figurehead Sam Palladino.
"We just lost Sam Palladino, one of our theatre's great promoters and actors," lamented Bob Ostrom, board president. "The drive will be named 'The Sam Palladino Memorial Drive,' and from today forward his name will be on it. We will even have a banner across Main Street in the first week of September."
Rick Hartling, board secretary, emphasized Sam's importance to the theater.
"We are really hoping to make sure everyone knows about the theater and our programs, and that we are dedicating this season to Sam Palladino," he said.
Paladino was a much-loved figure in Jamestown, and he was involved in numerous charities in addition to being a pillar of the theater.
"Our hope is that people will join in memory of Sam," Ostrom said. "He really was a wonderful, wonderful man."
Ostrom said that the theater hopes to add 400 members through the 76th season's membership drive. The theater plans to employ one-on-one approaches through local organizations such as the Lions Club and the Rotary Club.
"We realize it's difficult, but we've done it before," Ostrom said.
The Lucille Ball Little Theatre has enriched the culture of Jamestown for many years. However, it wasn't always named for the beloved comedic icon.
"We have Lucille Ball's truest claim to fame, as she was a member of our original Players' Club," said Ostrom. "She appeared on stage with the club's cast, and came back to the theater many times. In 1990 she agreed to attend the re-dedication, but unfortunately passed away before the event."
Even before Lucy graced the theater's stage, it was a big player in the community as the largest volunteer theater in New York state.
"We used to be the largest in the U.S. after World War II, which is quite an important distinction," Ostrom pointed out. "It's a really neat place."
The Little Theatre holds a significant place in Jamestown's history, and Ostrom has been present for much of its culture. By his own admission, he has been in 53 plays and served as president of the board six times during a 30-year period, in addition to being involved in many nonprofit organizations in the area.
"The theater is my passion," he said. "Once you get involved with the Little Theatre, once you get on stage, it gets into your blood. I think that was the case with Sam too."
The upcoming season promises variety for audiences. With productions ranging from the "Little Mermaid" to "Spamalot," the theater has something for everyone.
"We are really a family-oriented institution, although once in a while we do something avant garde," said Ostrom. "We mainly do traditional performances."
The season opener will be "Forbidden Broadway," which turns a satirical lens toward popular Broadway productions. Following the tribute, Little Theatre will present the Little Mermaid.
"People are familiar with the tunes and the kids love it," said Ostrom. "We were fortunate to obtain the rights."
After the adventures of Ariel, members are invited to enjoy "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play," inspired by the classic American film.
This season's comedy is "Guys on Ice," which received stellar reviews from critics.
"It's really very, very funny," said Ostrom.
After the laughs, the theater will become more acquainted with its somber side with "The Desperate Hours."
"We try to do one drama a year to appeal to all the members of our constituency," said Ostrom. "'The Desperate Hours' is far more serious than our usual productions, but many will enjoy it."
For the second-to-last production of the season, the theater's Junior Guilders, led by Helen Merrill, are slated to take the stage for their annual show.
"The Junior Guilders production is always a highlight. I get people that call in and ask specifically what they are doing, as it is always a production in itself," Ostrom commented.
The season will close out with "Spamalot," a Monty Python adaptation.
"This year we are putting on 'Spamalot', which is a bit outside the box, but many people love British humor," said Ostrom.
All in all, the 76th season of the Lucille Ball Little Theatre is shaping up to be one to remember.
Supporters of the theater can buy season tickets at the theater's offices or by calling (716) 483-1095. Season tickets save the holder 40 percent off single admission prices over the course of the season. As a bonus, new members may attend "Forbidden Broadway," which is the last show of the 75th season, for no additional charge.