The Curtain Opens in Coatesville
Heather Grayberg has always known theatre. She grew up in a family that was very musical and at just five years old, her theatrical spark ignited when Heather’s brothers were in a high school production of Oklahoma. She remembers, “I became completely obsessed… One day my dad and I arrived at their rehearsal a few minutes early, we were watching the end of the rehearsal when the title song, “Oklahoma” came on. My oldest brother told me to go up onstage and join them. I ran right up and started singing and dancing alongside the high school kids, choreography and all. Lucky for me, my dad couldn’t catch me in time.”
And good thing her Dad didn’t catch her because Heather has performed and worked in the arts ever since that profound moment. She pursued her Bachelor of Music degree in Musical Theatre-Vocal Performance from Westminster College of the Arts at Rider University and worked as a creator or administrator in the arts in various capacities. Soon after becoming a mother, her focus shifted more to directing, choreography and education. This shift led Heather to open Revival Productions, a performing arts production company bringing professional theatre, music and dance to the City of Coatesville.
THE BEGINNING OF A REVIVAL
Revival Production’s first act started at Gordon Early Literacy Center’s auditorium in 2018. Heather explained that her team soon recognized that their rapid growth was going to need a bigger space. The search for a new home really came to fruition at the intermission of Revival’s summer camp production Disney’s Frozen Junior; where Richard May of West Chester LLC (one of the founders of Uptown! In West Chester) came to Heather and said, “Yeah....we need to get you your own venue.” Heather enlisted Richard’s help in the search for a new home for Revival, which ultimately led to the introduction to the real estate company, Activated New Heritage in Coatesville.
In February of 2020, the trio toured the St. Stanislaus Kostka campus on North Church Street and Heather knew this was it. “I walked into the former school and the entire building came to life. I could see dance studios, private lesson rooms, a Blackbox theater, and a lot of amazing opportunities.” That first initial vision took shape into what Revival Productions is today; just one year later the property has transformed into a lively performing arts campus.
Revival Productions currently has four main operations; professional productions, special performances, summer camps and all-youth performances and year-round lessons and classes. The company employs hundreds of actors and musicians throughout the year, flowing in through auditions and filling diverse and vibrant roles. Heather serves as the Executive Artistic Producer and handles all the administrative operations of the organization and the artistic content, “The vision and mission keeper, if you will” she says.
The educational arm of Revival Productions is called REVPAC, short for Revival Performing Arts Conservatory. Heather reflects, “we always knew that we wanted to have a vast education department, honestly, we didn’t anticipate it happening so soon.” But it did and now working alongside Heather is her Production Coordinator Katherine Snyder and her husband, Daniel, who is the Resident Music Director and coordinates the educational programming. REVPAC offers year-round instrumental, voice, piano, and percussion private lessons. They also offer instruction in acting, dance, fitness and other drop-in classes for all ages. In a few short months, they’ll host summer camp for dance, dj’ing, productions, tech camp and more.
A COMMUNITY ASSET
The theatre on 17 North Church Street is a space where performers can try new things and build their talent. But the purpose of Revival Productions doesn’t stop there. “The vision for us is to be a creative placemaking organization” says Heather. Being a creative placemaking organization means Revival harnesses the power of arts, culture and creativity to build relationships, connect residents and contribute to building a healthy community. “From the perspective of the performing arts, we are charged with being storytellers and doing so with the highest quality possible. We create memories, allow for discussion and ultimately enhance the human experience.”
Cities all around the country tap into similar art-based strategies like Revival’s to strengthen economic, community and social development. It’s a tried-and-true concept that can increase attraction of diverse talent, boost tourism and build neighborhood vitality. Heather says, “the by-product of our existence is that communities with a strong sense of arts and culture ultimately have a better quality of life and businesses flourish where arts and culture abound. This is simply the socio-economic effect.”
In addition to serving as a creative placemaking organization, Heather explains that a big reward of working at Revival is seeing an audience be moved by a story. She says theatre has the ability to cross divides by communicating through the arts. That communication is also found in REVPAC’s educational programming where Heather said she finds great fulfillment experiencing the personal successes of students.
There are many ways to become involved with Revival Productions; either as a performer, volunteer or audience.
The company has membership and sponsorship packages that offer perks like tickets, discounts on classes, advertising, special events, VIP opportunities and much more. The campus is home to three large dance studios, three lesson studios and the Blackbox theater, all available for rent. Heather welcomes everyone to experience Revival, “We see our venue as a place for the entire community.”