This was the cast of RAAPA (Rumford Association for the Advancement of the Performing Arts) in Dec. 2019, their last performance before the Covid pandemic. From left in the front row are Gail Dorr, Arita Zitoli, Jennifer Lepage, Erika Rickards, Gabrielle LeVasseur and Evon Soule. In the second row are Cindy Archibald, Sara Perry, Fawn Palmer, Alica Hagen- Riddick and Marie DiSciullo-Naples. In the third row are Jeannine Murray, Paula Chase, Wayne Landry, Allan Hagen and Connie Venskus. In the back row are Seth Carey, Anita Murphy, David Briggs, Tom Carey, T.J. Riddick and Mary Pulsifer. Submitted photo


RUMFORD — After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, RAAPA (Rumford Association for the Advancement of the Performing Arts) is making a comeback.
President Anita Murphy and director Connie Venskus said Friday rehearsals will get underway this month in preparation for a late-spring production on June 9-10 at the Snowshoe Club in Rumford.
Venskus said, “Our plan is to offer an evening of entertainment which will include a comedy murder mystery and a chorus performance, welcoming back accompanist Gail Dorr and Shirli Allen as our choral director. We are excited to invite former and recent members to join our chorus, as well as potential newcomers to celebrate our return! If you, like so many of us, have missed lifting your voice in song, come and be part of the fun.”
Murphy, a member of RAAPA since 1990, and their president since 2004, said RAAPA has been provided its local community with many wonderful productions for 54 years come May. RAAPA celebrated its 50th anniversary with a Christmas show in 2018.
“People miss it. Already hearing from people who haven’t been with RAAPA for years,” said Murphy.
She noted that they had had three rehearsals with the spring show three years ago before they had to stop because the pandemic worsened.
Venskus, a member of RAAPA since 1973, said the murder mystery, “And Then There Was One – a Spoof” had been cast in 2020. “This play was not done because of the pandemic, but RAAPA had already paid $250 for the rights and scripts for the play. We were lucky they let us keep the scripts.”
Murphy said if you’re in RAAPA, “You have to like music. When I moved back here in ’82, I went to like two shows, I said, ‘I’d really like to do that, but I hadn’t sung since grammar school.’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I can’t sing in front of a bunch of people,’ knowing that I hadn’t sung in that long. Then, two years after that, I found out you don’t need to audition, just come and sing.”
However, Venskus noted that there are auditions for the plays.
“We are working on getting the roles for the (upcoming) play. We had it all cast almost three years ago. We’ve lost a few people that couldn’t do it because of other commitments,” she said.
Venskus said the male lead for the play couldn’t do it this year. As couple weeks ago, RAAPA met to discuss if they wanted to go forth with the play, and someone suggested who might be willing to take this role. That person accepted the role right away.
“It’s getting harder to find people for RAAPA. A lot of us are ‘older’ — sixties or seventies,” she said, adding finding males are much harder.
Murphy said their singing group has just two male members — a base and a tenor.
Venskus said, “There’s something about theater. We’ve all been together for so many years. I’ve been doing plays since I was a little kid. And when I was a teacher, I did a lot of drama with my kids.”
Fawn Palmer, one of the RAAPA officers, has started a GoFundMe page for RAAPA to raise startup funds the group needs to operate. To reach that site, visit Fawn Palmer on Facebook.
Due to COVID, RAAPA has not been able to do any performances for the past couple of years, hence not generating operating funds. “We are ramping back up but need help with getting our next production going plus funds to pay storage rental and insurance,” she said on the site.
If the June performance goes well, Venskus said the hope is that RAAPA will do a 2023 Christmas show.

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