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We weren’t sure what to expect when we attended Katonah Classic Stage’s fall performance of “Private Lives.” Would live theater in Bedford be any good? Thankfully, it was excellent. The dialogue was swift and punchy, and the actors didn’t miss a beat. It was fun, engaging and just a few minutes away. So we can confidently say that we’ll be back for next year’s lineup, which includes one of our favorites – Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” in April.

Katonah Classic Stage was founded in 2019 by professional actor Trent Dawson and his wife Sharron Kearney, a criminal prosecutor for The Department of Homeland Security. He serves as the artistic director, and she’s the executive director.

“We live in this arts capital, with Caramoor, The Katonah Museum of Art, cultural events at John Jay Homestead, etc. – there’s so much here, but there was no professional theatre,” says Dawson. “I really cut my teeth in regional theater, performing in these wonderful plays that are considered classics, and I was always impressed by what these shows did for the towns. They increase commerce, boost local businesses and serve as a point of pride for the community. I thought it’d be a great fit for up here, and when I asked around, people agreed.”

Trent Dawson and Sharon Kearney

Because they were forced to cancel their inaugural play due to the pandemic, their first major event was held in August of 2020 – an international drive-in film festival; the international part was an accident, thanks to a technology glitch.

“It ended up being a great thing – we received about 400 films,” Dawson remembers. “We had films from Ukraine, India, everywhere. We’ll host our fourth film festival this August, and we’ve developed an international following with filmmakers of all ages.”

Since then, they’ve hosted a one-man show, two plays (including “Private Lives,” which was canceled twice due to COVID-19), several readings, benefits and two more film festivals.

Katonah Classic Stage’s mission is multifaceted, but their main objective is to produce plays that Dawson believes are “the greatest plays ever written.” They also hold workshops for teens, introducing them to the classics. From April 11 – May 19, they’ll host a Speak the Speech workshop, which is an “introduction to acting Shakespeare,” on Tuesday evenings.

“Last summer, a group of high schoolers and one junior high student worked on Shakespeare for six weeks,” Dawson describes. “At the end, we made a movie out of it. We helped these actors get their feet wet with Shakespeare, so it’s not so foreign or intimidating.”

“Our tagline is that we’re a professional theatre with community at heart,” says Kearney. “That’s largely because the community has brought us up for these last few years – they really are the backbone of what we’re doing. And they’re also the people we’re trying to entertain.”

And entertain they do. To be honest, we had no idea we were missing a professional theater in our area, but now that we have one, we wish it’d been here along. We’ll see you at “The Glass Menagerie” in April.

This article was published in the January/February 2023 print edition of Katonah Connect.

Editor-in-Chief at Connect to Northern Westchester | Website | + posts

Gia Miller is an award-winning journalist and the editor-in-chief/co-publisher of Connect to Northern Westchester. She has a magazine journalism degree (yes, that's a real thing) from the University of Georgia and has written for countless national publications, ranging from SELF to The Washington Post. Gia desperately wishes schools still taught grammar. Also, she wants everyone to know they can delete the word "that" from about 90% of their sentences, and there's no such thing as "first annual." When she's not running her media empire, Gia enjoys spending quality time with friends and family, laughing at her crazy dog and listening to a good podcast. She thanks multiple alarms, fermented grapes and her amazing husband for helping her get through each day. Her love languages are food and humor.