Open W-F, 12-4pm, Sat 10am-2pm | (860) 364-5688

Open W-F, 12-4pm, Sat 10am-2pm | (860) 364-5688

Sharon Playhouse: Setting the Stage

Spring 2018

The origins of the Playhouse date back to the late 1920’s when theater-loving Sharon residents formed a play-reading group. Initially they met for their own entertainment, but soon the word had gotten around town. Throughout the 1930’s and 40’s their audiences grew and grew and after the war residents felt they needed a place to house these productions. In 1950 Helen Kingstead and Walter Winburn had the first season of what would become the Sharon Playhouse at the SCAF Gallery (Sharon Creative Arts Foundation).

Photo of the Sharon Playhouse during their first season in the newly built theater in 1955

The origins of the Playhouse date back to the late 1920’s when theater-loving Sharon residents formed a play-reading group. Initially they met for their own entertainment, but soon the word had gotten around town. Throughout the 1930’s and 40’s their audiences grew and grew and after the war residents felt they needed a place to house these productions. In 1950 Helen Kingstead and Walter Winburn had the first season of what would become the Sharon Playhouse at the SCAF Gallery (Sharon Creative Arts Foundation).

By the second season, well-known mystery writer Jud-son Phillips joined Helen and Walter taking on several roles in the organization: ac-tor, director, producer and benefactor. Judson would go on to operate what would become the Sharon Play-house for several decades.

The SCAF Gallery soon was not able to seat enough audi-ence members for the popu-lar theater group. In 1954 they organized and formed Community Plays, Inc. The company sold 1600 shares at $50 a piece, raising $80,000 to construct a new theater. The iconic red barn that would be dubbed the Sharon Playhouse seated 374 when curtains opened on its first production, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, in the summer of 1955. Over the years well-known actors were in casts of shows at the Sharon Playhouse, sometimes early in their careers, and sometimes after they had made names for themselves in TV, Broadway, and movies.

Throughout the 1960’s & 1970’s the theater had a loyal local following. When a fire broke out during a matinee one season the audience refused to leave. Once, during a production of Gypsy when the electricity went out due to a storm someone drove a Camaro into the lobby, jacked it up and used the car’s brights to light up the stage. The 1980s and 1990s saw several local and outside companies come and go due to inability to stay financially self-sustaining. Nothing seemed to work. The Sharon Playhouse was too often dark.

In 1999 Tri-State Center for the Arts, better known as “TriArts” purchased the theater. Their first season in the Sha-ron Playhouse saw productions of Grease and Guys and Dolls (starring Barry Williams of “The Brady Bunch”). In the past decade the Playhouse has undergone quite a bit of growth and change. There are two stages, cabaret nights after select shows, a children’s theater, and an assortment of shows and events. The 2018 season includes productions of Anything Goes, All Shook Up, Barefoot in the Park, and Always…Patsy Cline.

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