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The Play’s The Thing: Outrageous Fortune Co.’s players newly wandering

The Outrageous Fortune Company is now homeless. After 17 years and 50 plays at Queens Theatre in the Park, money and other issues have caused us to part company.

Since OFC still has a lot of contemporary plays it wants to produce, and I still have the passion, the search is on for an appropriate venue, preferably in northeast Queens. The sooner the better, but easier said than done.

Outside of the city, many more opportunities exist and the local community is much more supportive. But here in Queens, most of the theater groups perform in churches or synagogues, usually a cost-effective relationship but sometimes a contentious one. The Colonial Players, a popular company run by Bill & Sharon Wolf, had to leave the Colonial Church in Bayside some years ago, and more recently Kevin & Judy Vincent’s Theatre Time Productions could no longer afford the First Presbyterian Church in Whitestone. Mosques, anyone?

Out on the Island, the venue of choice is often a storefront, while in Manhattan many small theaters can be found in spaces on the upper floors of some old buildings. In fact, plays can be performed just about anywhere. A current production of “Hedda Gabbler,” by Henrik Ibsen, can be seen in a town house in the East Village, seating capacity 25. And in the summertime, the great outdoors is a good option.

Of course, it all depends on how “professional” you want your production to be — not to be confused with how “good” the work is. Shakespeare’s plays, 400-plus years ago, were performed in rudimentary theaters where most of the audience had to stand for two to three hours, and all the roles were played by men, but Will over the centuries has done all right for himself (although he doesn’t collect any royalties). How long did people wait on line to see Al Pacino in “The Merchant of Venice” in Central Park this summer? Catch it at the Broadhurst Theatre next month.

A few weeks ago my first wife and I were in Stockbridge, Mass., at the prestigious Berkshire Theatre Festival. We were not at the main stage, however, but at the Unicorn, where mostly college students presented “Babes in Arms,” the Rodgers & Hart musical, best known from the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney let’s-put-on-a-show movie. It has such classic songs as “The Lady is A Tramp” and “My Funny Valentine,” but the book, like most of the pre-1940’s musicals, made little sense, and the quality of the actors was not up to expectations. If you want to see a top-notch musical, worthy of all its accolades, don’t miss “Next To Normal,” now being staged and performed to perfection at the Booth Theatre.

It takes a lot to produce a show, especially when lack of money is a major factor. Our local groups are dedicated, and it continues to amaze me how much time and energy they put into it. The talent and skill may vary, but more often than not you’ll be pleased with how good these shows can be. So with the new season upon us, look for listings about what’s playing, and go out and have a good time.

And please be on the lookout for a new space for The Outrageous Fortune Company.

We’ve got a few more miles to go.

Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu.

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