When I talked to Lynne Anne Donchez, she was shampooing her sister’s hair – no surprise for the former owner of LAD & Co. Hairdressing of Distinction. She started the company in 1982 on East State Street in Doylestown and now retired, she has some clients in her home.
And we all laughed and laughed as Lynne Anne talked about the Town & Country Players, the community theater in Buckingham, still running after 75 years. It was founded after World War II, as part of a wave of rural theaters that grew up around cities like New York and Philadelphia. The Langhorne Players had a similar group that acted in a converted barn.
“It was 1947, the year I was born,” Lynne Anne said of Town & Country – her parents were Das and Frank Donchez and her father was one of the founders, so the daughters grew up among actors and directors and Town & Country fans. Theater lore enriched the family’s lives and all were attentive to the task at hand.
With Jean Rutherford the founder, members in the beginning met in the Rutherfords’ apartment over the camera shop on West State Street in Doylestown. For years people brought beach chairs to watch performances, and income was unpredictable for at least the first 10 years. After 15 years, the company had a barn for theater-in-the-round. Eventually, there was air-conditioning and heat, a far cry from the rustic venue in the 1950s.
Lynne Anne, with her special talent made wigs, applied players’ makeup and, produced the costumes along with a succession of volunteers. “It was family theater,” Lynne Anne said, “with mom or dad, maybe both, but at least one person in the show.
Nancy Ridgeway, Lynne Anne’s sister, has directed and her daughters have danced and choreographed shows. Sister Sally Fabian’s granddaughter did her first show with T&C at age 8.
This spring, the group opened its 75th season with “Guys and Dolls,” and a ceremony joined by Ron Strouse, former Doylestown mayor, who presented a proclamation to celebrate the group’s longevity.
“We’ve grown from being a run-of-the mill average group to a high end community theater,” Lynne Anne said.
She has been the specialist for more than T&C. She’s provided hair, makeup and wig design for theatrical productions in the tri-state region. “I have provided design work for professional theaters, regional theater, community theater, high school and middle school productions. In addition, I have been on call for professional touring companies and have provided last minute design work as needed,” she says on her website.
“I take pride in researching each play and providing accuracy in designing to the required time period. Additionally, I have an inventory of wigs available for loan and restyling, or will purchase the needed wigs and style as required. My services are available to you in your productions as needed, and at affordable prices.”
She also has a huge inventory of hats, which she showed recently to an enthusiastic gathering of the Bucks County Historical Society at the Mercer Museum.
The season ahead includes “A Streetcar Named Desire” June 3-18, and “The Sound of Music,” a show Lynne Anne is thrilled to have at Town & Country July 5 to Aug. 6. That’s followed by a series of one-acts and the year’s finales – “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 4-19, and the traditional “Nutcracker” Dec. 2-10. T&C’s traditional Holiday Show tops off the season in mid-December.
In between, there’s the 24-Hour Play Festival, a collaborative process in which theater artists challenge their creativity by creating original plays within the span of 24 hours. Local directors, writers, and actors work together in small teams to stage, write, and perform the world-premiere pieces for a live audience, all in one day.
And above, you see only some of the programs – Children’s theater has always been part of Town & Country. You can find the offerings at townandcountryplayers.org.