Margie Young has been with the Dietrich Theater through it all.
When she moved to the Tunkhannock area from Illinois about 20 years ago, an initiative to reopen the Dietrich, which shut down in the late 1980s, was just in its beginnings.
While Young had connections to Tunkhannock through summer visits as a child, she has no real memories of the theater while it was originally up and running, except seeing ‘The China Syndrome’ while visiting her parents, who later retired there.
Nevertheless, she joined the small group of locals who wanted to bring the theater back, eventually becoming one of the first board members.
Moving to Tunkhannock was supposed to be an early retirement for the former school librarian, but she instead chose to dedicate her time to the Dietrich, essentially building its cultural programs from the ground up.
“Obviously, I didn’t retire,” Young laughed, though now, she has finally decided that it’s time.
Her second retirement was recently celebrated with her Dietrich family, though she plans to stay on board as a regular volunteer.
Looking back to the late 1990s, her answer for why she got involved with reopening the theater was simple: “Who doesn’t love the movies?”
Without the Dietrich, movie lovers in Tunkhannock had to drive at least 40 minutes to get to the nearest theater, but convenience wasn’t the only factor in the revival efforts.
“When the application was written to be a non-profit, it was already the vision that the theater would open not only as a movie theater, but as a cultural center,” Young said. “Well, that’s kind of lofty. I marvel at the fact that we never wavered from that vision.”
The group was successful in raising funds to purchase the theater, which reopened in 2001 after nearly three years of work.
Having familiarity in building programs through her experience as a librarian, Hildy Morgan, the Dietrich’s executive director at the time, asked Young to be the program director.
In the summer of 2002, it was time for the first programs to begin. Theaters were used as makeshift classrooms with tables and chairs.
The Dietrich brought in programs from the Everhart Museum, as well as Pennsylvania Performance on Tour and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.
“We started small, but started with the highest quality with a vision that we could have the best that we could find in the area,” she said. “The reason it worked is that we took some risks. We were inventing ourselves.”
Times have changed, as the Dietrich now offers around 350 cultural events each year. This includes film festivals, workshops and countless other events.
“Our Margie started our classes from nothing and now you can see we have a full slate of offerings,” Dietrich Theater Executive Director Erica Rogler said while flipping through a pamphlet of the theater’s spring and summer 2019 happenings.
Two studios adjacent to the theater were opened for visual and performing arts classes.
Later, three new classroom spaces were added in the theater through the 2009 expansion, which made “all the difference in the world.”
“It’s a very fulfilling job to start to create something from nothing, because there was a Dietrich Theater before, but we reinvented it,” Young said. “In our community, we realized that we had to have lots of low cost or free opportunities for people. The underlying belief that the arts for everyone, not just a select view, that’s been overall since day one.”
Seeing the difference in programs over two decades is “thrilling” for Young, and continued community appreciation and support has been the best part of the job.
This was especially apparent when the Dietrich fell on hard times after a flood in 2011.
Thanks to a staggering number of community volunteers, the theater was able to open up a film festival just one week later, though some areas had to stay closed off for renovations.
Though Young’s time with the Dietrich has not come to a complete close, she looks forward to using her newfound spare time to continue researching her home, which was built by some of the first settlers in Wyoming County.
She also plans to travel, having recently returned from a Road Scholar trip.
“I’m just open to new experiences,” she said. “There’s still more out there.”
Reflecting on her time with the Dietrich, she marvels at how everything has worked out since joining that group of hopeful community volunteers.
“A dream has been realized and I think it’s because we never considered that we couldn’t do it,” Young said. “We’ve had some hard times, but we always come through.”