Sullivan County Democrat
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Democrat Photo by John Emerson

ALL SMILES: Barbara Newberg, left, one of the founders of the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop, was honored by its current director, Lori Schneider-Wendt, for her unwavering service to the 50-year-old organization.

Sullivan County Dramatic
Workshop Is 50 Years Old

By John Emerson
ROCK HILL — July 25, 2000 – During its first 48 years of existence, the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop was an itinerant bunch, living out of homes, barns, garages, even the parish house of St. John’s Church in Monticello.
The Muses, Melpomene, Thalia and Terpsichore – the ancient Greek goddesses of tragedy, comedy and dance – made their presence known through Barbara Newberg, who refused to let the group die.
Saturday night, the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary and honored Newberg, who has served as either an officer or member of the board of directors since she, Sunna Rasch and Rhonda Freeman started the local theater group in 1950. The organization also honored Bob Nartoff, a 37-year member of the group, by naming the auditorium at the Rivoli Theater in South Fallsburg in his name.
In her remarks to the audience Saturday evening, Rasch, who left the organization in 1963 to form the internationally known Periwinkle National Theater Company, reminisced about starting the group 50 years ago.
“I didn’t know Barbara, but I heard that she had performed on Broadway, and I was very impressed,” she said. “I called her, and we talked about it. We were two mothers giving birth to the same child.”
Workshop president Lori Schneider-Wendt also praised Newberg and her devotion to the organization.
“She has been like a mother to me,” Schneider-Wendt said. “She taught me how to put on makeup. I remember one time it was early in rehearsal and I had a scene where I had to kiss someone. I was a little uncomfortable with it at that point, and she looked at me and said, ‘My dear, you are an actress. Kiss the man’.”
Since the group was organized in 1950, they have mounted more than 100 productions and done many smaller productions, working with charities, service organizations and others to supply entertainment for fundraising efforts and other activities. Throughout the years, hundreds of members have come and gone, getting a taste of show business and the theater.
The organization took a major step forward when it purchased the Rivoli Theater in 1998 as a permanent home. Since then, they have presented several productions along with building a stage and doing extensive renovation work to the aging, art deco-style theater that was once a movie house. Work on the building continues as they construct dressing rooms and other amenities for their casts and crews.

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