“I can’t imagine a better place to raise my children and to make my art and to teach my students.”
Coming from a high school class of 82 students, Dave Reynolds experienced a bit of culture shock when he left his home in rural Schuylkill County and enrolled at King’s College. Wilkes-Barre felt like the “big city” at first, but it would ultimately become the place he’d call home.
After completing his master’s at Temple, spending a summer in Missouri and almost taking a position outside of Philly, Dave returned to his alma mater as a full-time professor. He is currently the Chair and Production Manager of the King’s College Theatre Department.
Since 2003, Dave has pursued his passion project as the Artistic Director and founding member of Gaslight Theatre Company. The group started off simply as a group of friends who wanted to put on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Since then, Gaslight has brought countless classical, under-produced and contemporary plays to the NEPA stage, including over 50 original works by regional playwrights.
As an active member of the community, Dave also serves on the Board of Directors at KISS Children’s Theatre and the Wilkes-Barre Little League. We sat down to talk about the local theatre scene and why NEPA checks off all the boxes as an artist, educator and parent.
How long have you lived in NEPA?
I grew up in Schuylkill County, and I moved in 1996 to go to King’s College. So I’ve lived in Wilkes-Barre about 24 or 25 years.
When you were away at Temple, what did you miss most about NEPA?
My wife, because we were married at that point. I spent pretty much every weekend back up here. I missed my wife, my very best friends, my theatre company. Everything, honestly. I loved living in Philadelphia. It was awesome. Living in a city has some really cool advantages, but I missed here so much.
What brought you back to NEPA?
King’s College. It was always my goal to be making theatre at King’s College. The summer after I finished my master’s, I went out to Missouri to do summer stock theatre. I drove back 16 hours straight, listening to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on a laptop as I was driving, which is not safe, but that’s what kept me awake. I got home, and my wife let me know that she was pregnant with our first son. At that point, I had been hired to be the resident designer and technical director at a theatre in Media, which is right outside of Philly. But my wife had a job here that had health insurance, and we decided that we needed to stay here.
I knew that I wanted to come back to King’s. It just sort of worked out that the faculty were retiring, and I was able to get a job. It was sort of like our life had other plans. We were ready to leave the area, and then we ended up staying, I guess, thanks to my first child.
What do you love about your town?
The people, and specifically how passionate the people can be about everything. I have friends who are running theatre companies or who have opened pubs or who have organic coffee shops. There’s a spirit in the people around here who want to go out and create things. It’s not always easy to do it, and I think that makes them even more impressive people. That, and it’s just beautiful here. One of my very good friends is a professor at King’s who’s from Texas, and he talks about it all the time. We’re two and a half hours from the beach, forty-five minutes from the mountains, two hours from New York, two hours from Philly, and it’s just a beautiful place.
What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?
I would be remiss if I didn’t say Dugan’s Pub in Luzerne because my best friend owns it. It’s great, and the food is awesome. Also on the list is Cork for a fancy dining out. Cork is where we always go for anniversaries and things like that. We live really close to Margarita Azul, and that’s awesome too. I’ll go with Dugan’s as my number one, but I certainly do love a lot of restaurants.
What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?
I take the kids for walks, so we go to the Tubs or Kirby Park. Also, I’m on the board of the Wilkes-Barre Little League, so spending time with them doing that. My older son plays Junior Pens hockey. Pretty much all I do is what they’re doing. RailRiders baseball and Pens games are super fun.
Also, I want to talk up theatre in general around here. I know I have my companies that I work with, but I think the theatre scene has grown a lot over the past 20 to 25 years. You can see just about any kind of theatre around here, and I think that’s pretty neat. I hope that people—once we can do it—go out and support local theatre, local art and local businesses.
What’s next for you?
At King’s, we’re trying to figure out how everything’s going to work for the spring. We have cast our Shakespeare production of As You Like It. Fingers crossed, we’ll be doing that recorded cinematically. I have a small speaking part in that, which I generally don’t do, so that will be fun. And then trying to figure out what our musical at King’s will be. We’re really hoping to try to do it outside, which is something we’ve never done before. Building an outdoor stage may be the only way to have an audience.
At Gaslight right now, we’re talking about what kind of opportunities we could have for things like Zoom. We’re actually trying to come up with some scripted podcasts, so more dramatized work. Throughout this entire crisis, people that are creators have really felt the need to create. There’s a lot of challenges, but one of the things about theatre people is that they love challenges. From challenges, you get really interesting and creative solutions.
Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?
I think it’s really exciting. Now that I’m in my early forties, it’s weird because I’m getting older and I’m seeing a younger generation of people who are picking up the ball and running with it. I’m super proud to watch what people are doing for the area. One of the most impressed moments I’ve had over the past year is going to a Black Lives Matter rally at Public Square, and it was all organized by high school students. I was just really impressed with the passion.
Because I can’t imagine a better place to raise my children and to make my art and to teach my students. I have a direct line on both sides of my family to the coal mines. That’s probably very true to a lot of people who grew up here. I think there’s something about that being in your DNA that makes people work hard. It makes them realize what they have, and it makes them realize that this place gives back to us if we give to it.