Gary Fickes recently spoke with an 80-year-old woman who has lived in Altoona all of her life but has never been to the Mishler Theatre.
Fickes and his wife, Rolayne, are giving artists and patrons yet another opportunity to engage in the local arts scene.
The couple recently launched Sapphire Sky Entertainment – a production company that promises something different.
“I thought there needed to be another outlet for people who want to perform,” stated Rolayne Fickes. “This gives one more avenue for people to be able to use their talent.”
Gary Fickes describes the effort as a quest to give people with creative ideas an opportunity to express them. He envisions offering non-traditional arts that bring a different kind of vibrancy to the area.
“We would like to do things that have a broader appeal and bring a lot of people to the theater,” he noted.
The duo’s first offering – “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” – is scheduled for tomorrow night, Friday, April 20, at 7:30 p.m. at the Mishler.
In celebration of the Oscar, Grammy, and Tony winning composer’s 70th birthday, JD Promotions, LLC, in association with Sapphire Sky Entertainment, is presenting an evening featuring some of the music legend’s most cherished hits.
A group chosen by Rolayne will sing favorites from Evita, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and more.
Bryce Cossitor and Doug Stephens – both accomplished local musicians – will be the music director and orchestra conductor respectively. Visit Sapphire Sky’s Facebook page for more on the local performers.
As of the other day, only a few tickets for the April 20 show remained, Rolayne noted.
Gary and Rolayne, both Altoona natives and veterans of the arts community, have high hopes for this inaugural performance and for the future of their company.
Gary is the technical director at the Mishler and a lighting designer. Rolayne is retired and plans to devote the time necessary for successful productions.
Sapphire Sky – a name inspired by Rolayne’s birthstone and the blue sky of Florida where she enjoys a vacation home – plans three events each year. Dance opportunities, Rolayne said, are a big part of future plans.
Gary’s vision includes the establishment of a coalition of smaller local production companies for cooperative advertising and promotions.
“It wouldn’t cost much for all of us to promote each other’s shows,” he predicted.
Sapphire Sky Entertainment is yet another feather in the cap of a blossoming Altoona.
“It seems like the younger generation has brought things alive here,” Rolayne observed. “A lot of young people are bringing talent and sharing that talent within the community. People are coming back to the area for a more intimate experience where you get to know the people.”
She credits Penn State Altoona for some of the growth downtown, and praised the new businesses in the area.
Gary believes a younger population is key to a thriving arts community. He noted the struggles some arts organizations have with declining subscriptions.
“The only way you’re going to survive is to replenish the base,” he stressed. “You have to bring younger people in or you’re going to go out of business.”
Both hope young people and those who are young at heart will enjoy the Andrew Lloyd Webber performance and future Sapphire Sky productions.
“It’s a great place to be,” said Rolayne. “You can leave all your worries behind.