Mad Cat Theatre's Centralia: From Fire to Comedy

There is a place called Centralia, whose citizens are called Centralians. It is not the product of a science-fiction writer's imagination. It is an actual American town, but in 2002 this borough in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, had lost so many residents that the U.S. Postal Service revoked its zip code.

The reason for the town's desolation is all too familiar. Centralia was primarily a mining town, and back in 1962 a coal fire erupted underground. Its effects percolated up to Centralia's 1,000-plus residents nearly two decades later, when a 12-year-old boy fell into a sinkhole, literally reopening the issue. A few years later, Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts, and Centralia's population began dwindling. By 2013, eight residents called the town home. They were surrounded by ghosts and coal ash.

Who are these hangers-on, and why do they insist on remaining in an environmental blight? Moreover, what kind of theater are they into? Is Sondheim, Shakespeare, or Brecht more their thing?

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John Thomason