Gemini Theater: Making Magic in the Lives of Students

By Arwen Kozak – 11th Grade, Pittsburgh CAPA

Established in 1996 by Lani Cataldi and Dennis Palko, Gemini Theater seeks to “promote creativity, imagination, and originality, and have a positive effect on the individuals who participate.”  In the past 19 years, they have provided interactive theater experiences to over 75,000 people, including students who participate in their theater summer camps.

Many students come and go through the theater and its programs, but some have grown up with Gemini and continue their involvement with the theater well into their adult lives. Marsha Mayhak, a recent graduate of Duquense University, has been coming to Gemini for 11 years, since the summer before she started 7th grade. Marsha and her friends stumbled upon the theater when searching for theater summer camps, and they “unanimously agreed that it was the right choice.” In that week of summer camp, Marsha met Steff, another student who grew up at Gemini and continues her involvement to this day. Marsha began acting in main stage shows the following season, starting with Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Alexandra, a rising freshman at Pittsburgh CAPA, has been coming to Gemini for 10 years, and has watched shows, performed in them, and interned with summer camps. She began summer camp in 2005, and fondly remembers, “I played Princess Jasmine #3.” When she was old enough, she too began performing in main stage productions, her first being Rapunzel.

Both Marsha and Alexandra had the experience of growing up at Gemini, which stands not only as an important community center that has brought its programs to Pittsburgh for nearly 20 years, but as a second home and family to many students. As Marsha said, “Over the past 11 years, Gemini has been one of the most important places in the world for me.  Cliché as it may be, Gemini is home, and everyone there is family.”

Many of the students that enter the program stay for many years, and some go on to volunteer, intern, or even teach at the company. Alex and Marsha both reminisced, Marsha recalling, “I spent a lot of time, as many teenagers do, feeling invisible and lonely and worthless. Gemini helped me to find not only my passion, but myself. I have made countless lasting friends there, gained confidence I never thought was possible, and learned the true meaning of generosity.”

Alex had similar thoughts, saying, “[Gemini] makes me feel at home and it gave me a place to find some of my closest friends. To me, it also is so special for kids to have art and feel included… I have always felt included and happy and welcomed in the community.  I have met so many people who are there for me through thick and thin.”

Beyond the strong bonds that Gemini has created within its workers and students, it has made many important contributions to the community. As Marsha stated, “I think that the most important contribution Gemini makes to the community is its accessibility. Gemini seeks to expose anyone and everyone to the educational, therapeutic, and fun world of theater.” The programs at the theater are geared towards children of all ages and backgrounds and promote an accessible and fun theater experience.

The location of the theater has developed a steady group of participants who are involved in programs and performances. Gemini Theater spent 18 years at the Factory Building in the East Liberty/Wilkinsburg area. In May of this year, the theater left that space in search of a bigger, brighter, better home for themselves. Although Gemini is currently between spaces and “on tour,” Jill Jeffrey, the executive director, sees the mobility of the theater as a positive opportunity. Not being in the factory building has simply opened up a whole new world of communities that Gemini can access. 

This expanding of location may come with an expanding of programming, but Gemini already has many programs for all ages and theater backgrounds. From “Playdate on Stage,” an “introductory dramatics class” for 4-6 year olds, to “Acting Workshop” for 11-17 year olds, there is something for every age group. Plus, classes like “Lights! Curtain! Musical!” for 8-14 year olds encourage students with no previous experience to learn choreography each week. There are also multiple funds, including “Paige’s Promise” and The Christopher Lynch Memorial fund that allow students to attend classes who are unable to pay.

As Marsha said, “There is something for everyone.”

Arwen Kozak

By Arwen Kozak – 11th Grade, Pittsburgh CAPA

Arwen Kozak is an 11th grade student at Pittsburgh CAPA hailing from Friendship. She has been a Youth Reporter for Pittsburgh Youth Media for 2 years and enjoys acting and reading in her spare time.

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