Explore history and the arts in Pennsylvania’s Franklin County

Stephanie Kalina-Metzger

Reenactors watch as the town begins to “burn” during a spectacular reenactment light show.

Big plans are afoot this summer for Chambersburg and Waynesboro, two Franklin County, Pa., towns that lie north of Hagerstown, Md.

1864 — The Burning of Chambersburg

Gen. McCausland orders the courthouse and other Chambersburg buildings burned.
Gen. McCausland orders the courthouse and other Chambersburg buildings burned.

Back in 1864, the little town of Chambersburg found itself in peril when Confederate Gen. John McCausland demanded a ransom of $100,000 in gold. When the townsfolk refused, McCausland retaliated by burning much of Chambersburg to the ground.

Over the past four years, thousands have gathered each July to hear the story of that fateful event, which is reenacted with a light show that gives the visual effect of the burning. “We are commemorating the birth of the town after the burning and celebrating the rebirth of the human spirit,” said Janet Pollard, who promotes the county.

This year, there is a new element to the celebration. The Capitol Theatre will add “A Cappella & Unplugged” to the 1864 reenactment as a musical celebration of the town’s rebirth.

After an elimination process, the top six acts will perform on July 18 as part of the festivities leading up to the reenactment, where they will vie for the title “2015 A Cappella & Unplugged Champion.” The winner will appear on the steps of the courthouse during the 1864 light show.

Destination ARTS! thrives in Waynesboro

Destination ARTS! was created by the Arts Alliance of Greater Waynesboro to revitalize the area’s downtown.

“I counted 18 empty commercial spaces in May of 2013 and tried to come up with a way to use that space in a positive way,” said Andrew Sussman, founder and president of the Arts Alliance of Greater Waynesboro.

By July 2013, the spaces were filled with 800 pieces of art from regional artists. “It was so popular that we decided to keep it going and we now have five permanent art galleries in a town that previously had none,” said Sussman, adding that since its inception, the town has featured live music in downtown Waynesboro every weekend.

The summer schedule of weekend activities is filling up fast and a wide range of artists will be participating, including dancers, actors, painters, and musicians.

Wine lovers are invited to usher out their busy workweeks with “Wine Down Friday” receptions, which are held 5:00–8:00pm at Gallery 50, 42 West ARTS Co-op, Gallery 20 East, and the Ceramic Arts Center of Waynesboro. The receptions feature wine, light refreshments, and live music.

Live theater at Totem Pole Playhouse

Totem Pole Playhouse, Pennsyl-vania’s premiere summer stock theater, located in Caledonia State Park between Gettysburg and Chambersburg, is presenting its 65th summer season.

Starring in the playhouse’s opening play of the season, The Nerd, May 29–June 14, will be Eric Szmanda, of the long-running CBS series C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation. Internationally acclaimed baritone Ben Davis will lead a cast of 25 actors in Totem Pole’s production of the award-winning Broadway musical Shenandoah, June19–July 25.

Twenty-five years ago, acclaimed stage and television actor Granville Van Dusen premiered his one man play, The Memoirs of Abraham Lincoln, in nearby Gettysburg. This summer, Van Dusen’s final performance of the play takes place at Totem Pole, July 10–July 26. Ending the playhouse’s regular summer season is the long-running Broadway musical Grease, featuring Joyce DeWitt from the classic 1970’s and 80’s TV series Three’s Company, July 31–Aug. 12.

In addition to the four-show regular season, Totem Pole will also offer the world premiere of a special tribute concert, Lovesick Blues, featuring the music of country-western singing legends Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline, Aug. 18–23.

“We are very excited by the caliber of talent appearing on our stage this summer,” said Totem Pole’s Rowan Joseph. “These are artists that audiences pay hundreds of dollars a ticket to see in New York and London.”

In December, the Totem Pole’s legendary production of A Christmas Carol will be presented at The Majestic Theater in Gettysburg.

For more information:

Arts Alliance: artsalliancegw.org

Franklin Co. Tourism: explorefranklincountypa.com

Totem Pole Playhouse: totempoleplayhouse.org

Reenactors watch as the town begins to “burn” during a spectacular reenactment light show.
Reenactors watch as the town begins to “burn” during a spectacular reenactment light show.

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