Adam Weiss, Eternal Optimist

For many years Adam Weiss has been wowing local audiences as Master of Ceremonies at the yearly SHOWBOAT performance in Emlenton. But this year he was missing from his accustomed role due to the fact that his duties as Executive Director of Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts (ARCA) needed all of his attention as the 2007 Performance series was about to open. Adam assumed his directorship duties with ARCA in January of 2006 when, after serving for many years as a board member of that organization, Lincoln Hall in Foxburg was well on its way to total renovation, and an extensive performance program had to be planned.

Image of Adam Weiss
Adam Weiss

As a professor emeritus from Clarion University of Pennsylvania’s Theater Department, Weiss was no stranger to the many tasks required for the successful planning and execution of a wide-ranging professional performance series – auditioning talent, perusing complicated contracts, interfacing with ASCAP and performers unions, planning for a well-rounded and varied array of talent to mention just a few of his tasks.

Weiss brings to ARCA a rich tapestry of education, vocation and experience. As a young man just graduated from university (he has a BA in German from The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and a MA and PhD in Drama from the University of Denver) he had hoped for a career in the theater or films; but as a young husband and father common sense came to the fore and he looked for a position in teaching.

Adam Weiss came to our area in 1965 when he was employed to work for a one-year contract at the, then, Clarion State College. As he motored to his initial interview at the college Weiss drove across 208, down the river to Foxburg and over the Foxburg bridge and on thorough Knox to Clarion. He was bewitched by the natural beauty of the area and continues, to this day, to glory in our area’s splendor.

To add to his happiness Weiss found that his colleagues and his administrators ‘were like one big family’ and this, combined with ‘a terrific, enthusiastic and intelligent student body who wanted to learn, wanted to prosper and to be good at what they did’, bound him for decades to CUP.

The next several years were spent in getting CUP’s theater program up and running which also involved operating a theater season that featured four shows a year, one a musical, that were in addition to five shows during a six-week period during the summer. Summer became to seem to Weiss as “what summer?”, and time passed in a blur as production after production was mounted. There were actors to be coached, sets to be built, programs to print – in short everything. Weiss quips, “Things were very much hand- to-mouth and you couldn’t forget the chewing gum, wire, and WD40 that virtually held everything together.”

After several years CUP’s summer theater program moved to The Sawmill Theater in Cook’s Forrest. Weiss still remembers his close working relationship with Verna Leith who ‘loved theater and loved to promote Cook’s Forrest’. Weiss reminisces, “Verna started crafts programs in the early 70’s and intuited that a theater program would ‘go’. The shows were done ‘in the round’ and ‘Butterflies are Free’ was the first production. People showed up, we had a great time, and I realized ‘Bingo’! We had hit the mother lode!” Four years later The Saw Mill Theater was formally dubbed the ‘Verna Leith Theater’ and has been a successful venue ever since.

With his new venture at Lincoln Hall ‘The Eternal Optimist’ is once again bringing his artistry to a ‘new’ theater – and it appears that once again Weiss has ‘hit the mother lode!”. It is a wonderful thing to have a once darkened local performance space in the spotlight again. Weiss gives special credit and thanks to Patricia and Arthur Steffee who have put so much into this venture. He also thanks his fellow ARCA Board Members Roberta and Arch Newton, Sue and Gerry Peairs, Rosemary and Lou Kalinowsky, Jae and Andor Jobb and most particularly, his wife, Anne, for their efforts.

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