By Alicia Dziak

Salamanca’s historic Ray Evans Seneca Theater has a lot to celebrate these days. In addition to its recent renovations and the classic movies that returned to its big screen late last year, the theater will once again be featuring live performances on its stage.

The theater, named after the Academy-Award winning lyricist from Salamanca, has been vastly improved upon in the past year.

“Through a fundraiser and volunteers, we were able to get the seats fixed,” said Sally Marsh, board member of the Cattaraugus County Living Arts Association, the group that maintains the theater. Additionally, through grants, the theater was able to get new lighting and sound.

Upon completion of these renovations, it was time to bring in the performances.

Next week, theater-goers can enjoy West Side Story, the popular musical about the forbidden love between Tony and Maria who are tied to two rival gangs. The plot, inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is set in the New York City streets of the 1950’s.

“The cast has approximately 35 to 40 actors, plus a 20 piece orchestra,” Marsh explained, “All the music will be live.”

Cast members hail not only from Salamanca, but from all over Western New York and Pennsylvania. “This group of young people is so talented!” added Marsh.

West Side Story show dates and times are Thursday, July 17 and Friday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 19 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, July 20 at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased for $15 at the door or at Parkview Supermarket in Salamanca, the Salamanca Public Library and Togi’s Family Restaurant in Bradford.

To keep the momentum going, the theater also will be hosting a free show called Love Letters on August 1, at 7:30 p.m.

In addition, many of the talented West Side Story cast members will be returning to perform in the musical, Rent, August 14-17.

Mark your calendars now so you don’t miss out on all the exciting ways to support local theater!

Ray Evans Seneca Theater is located at 10 Main Street in the heart of Salamanca.