Friday, May 22, 2015

Bucks County Playhouse announces a reopening

The once-celebrated Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope will open later this year under management spearheaded by a Broadway producer and others, according to an announcement late Tuesday.

Bucks County Playhouse announces a reopening

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By Bill Reed
Inquirer Staff Writer

After rescuing the iconic Bucks County Playhouse from a year of dormancy, the new owners and operators are aiming to light up the New Hope stage for a May fund-raiser, two summer plays, and a Christmas holiday show.

"I can't imagine what it was like in 1939," when playwright Moss Hart put on the first show, Springtime for Henry, after converting the decaying 18th-century gristmill, Broadway producer Jed Bernstein said Tuesday. "It will be pretty exciting when the lights blaze on again.

"The enthusiasm of the community will get us off to a fast start," said Bernstein, who will live in the county while maintaining his Above the Title Entertainment office in New York City. "That's how we can make this theater blaze in glory again."

Since Kevin and Sherri Daugherty of Doylestown bought the theater Dec. 23, they have enlisted Bernstein as producing director, hired Tanya Cooper to run their Bridge Street Foundation, picked an engineer, and talked to contractors about repairs.

"Our first projects are to get open for a shortened summer season," Kevin Daugherty said. "We need to repair the roof" and make the bathrooms accessible for the handicapped. "We have a June deadline for construction to stage shows in July and August."

Bernstein said he would not name the shows until next month, but annual memberships are being sold on the theater's website, www.bcptheater.org.

"The main points are that there will be a return to Equity status, a return to live music - not that all shows will be musicals, but when it's appropriate - and it will be open year-round," Bernstein said.
"Our goal is 1,000 members in the first year," he added.

Annual memberships will cost $80 for individuals, $160 for families, and $500 for businesses. Members will get first chance at tickets for performances, plus discounts on tickets, parking, and concessions, and at local businesses.

"So many people have told us they want to be involved," Bernstein said. "The only way we can get home is to make everybody feel vested in this theater."

The Bridge Street Foundation, which paid less than the $2.1 million asking price for the playhouse, has provided enough funding "to get us started," Bernstein said. "We'll need financial support from the community to make it sustainable." A fund-raising gala is planned for May or early June, Bernstein said. Once a construction schedule is set, more details will be released, he said.

Standing on the stage overlooking the theater's 434 worn red seats, Bernstein sounded ready to write the next chapter of the playhouse where Neil Simon tried out two plays - Come Blow Your Horn and Barefoot in the Park (then titled Nobody Loves Me) - on their way to Broadway, and where Harvey debuted.

"Everybody knows about Grace Kelly" performing here, he said, "but this was where Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy made their first appearance together on stage."

The playhouse won't be in full swing until next January. Bernstein hopes it will then be open "365 days a year" with community theater productions, drama classes, and "a town council meeting once in a while.

"I expect to be overwhelmed with the demand."
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Contact staff writer Bill Reed at 215-801-2964, wreed@phillynews.com, or @breedbucks on Twitter.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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