The planned reopening was announced at a Jan. 17 press conference. The partners first announced their intent to bring the operation back to its glory in 2010, aiming for 2011 launch. The local landmark, which opened in 1939 near the Delaware River, has been derelict since late 2010, when the previous operator vacated the property.
With the theatre now being prepped for two summer shows and a holiday presentation, "the Bucks County Playhouse Conservancy is dissolving, having accomplished its mission." Peggy McRae will join the Bucks County Playhouse as the director of community affairs effective Feb. 1.
The playhouse will be under the leadership of producing director Bernstein.
Bucks County Playhouse will be undergoing "renovations and a revitalization project" in 2012, with plans to reopen in time for the summer 2012 season. BCP will present two summer productions and a 2012 holiday show. Plans are also in place for a spring gala to benefit the Playhouse. Information about these productions and gala will be announced at a later date.
The venue's relationship with Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers, ended on the watch of the previous operator. The house will become Equity again, the organizer say. Live music will also be part of future theatrical productions. A theatre membership program was also announced, giving patrons first access to events and a kind of ownership of the long-standing summer tradition. Memberships are $80 for individuals, $160 for families, and $500 for businesses. For more information, and to purchase a membership, visit the new website at www.bcptheater.org or call (215) 315-7788.
"On behalf of the Bridge Street Foundation, we would like to thank Mr. Bernstein, Ms. McRae and the entire community for their dedication and support towards the revitalization of the Bucks County Playhouse," stated Cooper, who, as president, will lead and represent the Bridge Street Foundation in all matters related to the Bucks County Playhouse. "We are committed to ensuring that BCP is restored as a theatrical presence in Bucks County for all to enjoy for years to come."
"I have always believed that good theatre has the power to make a significant impact on its community," Bernstein said. "BCP served as proof of that notion right here in New Hope for more than 70 years, and I look forward to the opportunity of proving it again."
Broadway. TV and film stars regularly appeared at the Playhouse, and pre-Broadway tryouts were part of its history. In recent years, non-union shows were staged there, giving the playhouse the sheen of an earnesst community theatre.
The late 18th-century building was originally a grist mill. In the 1930s, the mill was purchased by a group that included playwright Moss Hart, with the idea of producing theatre there. Renovations began in 1938 in anticipation of an official opening on July 1, 1939. The first show was the drama Springtime for Henry starring Edward Everett Horton.
Bucks County Playhouse became known as "America's Most Famous Summer Theatre," welcoming major stars. The plays Harvey, Nobody Loves Me (aka Barefoot in the Park) and Give 'Em Hell Harry made their premieres there. The list of performers who have played there includes Kim Hunter, Helen Hayes, Kitty Carlisle, Colleen Dewhurst, Shirley Booth, Sara Seegar, Lillian Gish, June Lockhart, Frances Reid, Peggy McCay, Grace Kelly, Bonnie Franklin, Kaye Ballard, Sandy Dennis, Farley Granger, Robert Redford, Paul Lynde, Kevin McCarthy, Bert Lahr, Leslie Nielsen, Jack Klugman, Gale Gordon, Roddy McDowell, Walter Matthau, Merv Griffin and Larry Hagman, among many others.
Bernstein's Above the Title Entertainment projects have included the Off-Broadway critically acclaimed musical revue Don't Quit Your Night Job; the seven-time Tony Award-nominated Passing Strange; the hit revival of Equus starring Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths; David Mamet's Oleanna starring Julia Stiles and Bill Pullman; the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair; Stephen Schwartz's newly re-imagined Working in Chicago; and the Broadway and West End hit Driving Miss Daisy starring Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines. Bernstein, former president of The Broadway League, is currently co-producing Rated P: For Parenthood, opening Feb. 26 Off-Broadway. He is in his sixth year as executive director of the Commercial Theater Institute, a training program for young producers.