About Sharon Playhouse
In the late 1920's and 1930's, a group of Sharon residents formed a play-reading group – at first for their own pleasure and then as they hoped, for their friends' and neighbors' entertainment. People in the area seemed to appreciate the idea of a local place where they could hear the words of famous playwrights interpreted by talented readers. After a few years, and with a growing audience, the original group was taken over by the well-known mystery writer Judson Phillips, who created a small regional Equity theater in the red barn that stands today as The Sharon Playhouse.
During the 1980s and 1990s, management and directorial guidance at The Sharon Playhouse lost continuity, a vital factor for any theater's survival. Season after season outside companies came and went. The Sharon Playhouse was too often dark.
In 1989 – separately from the Playhouse – a group of people joined together to create their own tri-state regional theater. Their artistic director was Ray Roderick, an original member of the Broadway cast of CATS, who, together with his wife Sarah Combs, were residents of Pine Plains, New York. In the summer of 1989, Ray directed THE MUSIC MAN for this organization. This new regional theater was named the TRI-STATE CENTER FOR THE ARTS – commonly referred to throughout the years to follow as "TriArts."
In Pine Plains – under a big tent for two years and later, in the Carvel warehouse for seven – TriArts produced ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, BARNUM, OKLAHOMA! and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and more. By then the company had built a tri-state reputation, with now Broadway producer Kevin McCollum acting as Executive Director.
The company was able to move to Sharon in 1999 when the Sharon Playhouse became available. The first season in The Sharon Playhouse saw productions of GREASE and GUYS AND DOLLS (starring Barry Williams of "The Brady Bunch"). Michael Berkeley, who had been Music Director in Pine Plains became Artistic Director at the new location, and worked closely with Executive Director Pamela Chassin. The Board of Directors made the decision to purchase The Sharon Playhouse and launched a capital campaign (under the leadership of Board Presidents Pat Best and David Sims).
In February, 2003, The Sharon Playhouse purchase was complete, ensuring a long-term, permanent home. The Bok Gallery was completed in September, 2003, providing year-round performance space, offices, workshop space, and on-site rehearsal space.
Alice Bemand took over as Executive Director in 2006. In 2011 John Simpkins joined the staff as a second Artistic Director – and moved into being sole Artistic Director in 2013. Justin Ball joined as Managing Director in 2014.
Since 2013, the Playhouse has undergone tremendous growth and change. A Collegiate Company of actors now exists, the Season has been expanded to include Plays and musicals, a commitment to New Musical Development has been put in place, the Bok Gallery is now a performance space (called "Stage 2") for more intimate plays and musicals, the Patio now offers late night cabarets following shows, and an official relationship with Actors' Equity Association has begun.
In 2015, the Board voted to rename the organization "The Sharon Playhouse" to make the company and the venue one and the same.