Most people are exposed to live theater at the community level, through amateur or semi-amateur productions that are always high in enthusiasm, even if the quality may vary widely. On the Cape, we are blessed with many theaters, from scrappy amateur community companies to professionals presenting everything from classic musicals to cutting-edge dramas. The future of two of our region's most venerable theaters, however, is up in the air at this time.
Faced with declining revenue and the need for a multi-million dollar facility upgrade, the Academy Playhouse in Orleans is taking a four-month “intermission” to assess its direction and programming. The theater's full-time staff members were laid off and no shows are currently scheduled. Known for its thrust stage and community oriented productions, the Academy will be working with a consultant to “strengthen our board, expand and strengthen our volunteer pool, and very carefully look at what we're offering there,” including expanding offerings to include concerts, dance and other performances, said board of trustees chairman Peter Brown.
The situation with Chatham's Monomoy Theatre is different, and perhaps more dire. A town inspection last summer revealed numerous health and safety violations in the residences that house the college students who participate in the summer theater training program. The University of Hartford, which holds the lease on the theater, informed the trust that owns the property that it could not renew a lease on facilities that potentially put its students in danger. Without a tenant, the owner declined to move ahead with the repairs, and announced this week that the property would be put on the market. A nonprofit organization has been formed to try to buy it and continue running the theater, but the prospect of that happening is anything but certain.
Monomoy has been a training ground for aspiring theater actors and technicians – under Ohio University beginning in 1958 and since 2014 under the auspices of the Hartt School at the University of Hartford – and numbers among its alumni many theater, film and television professionals, including numerous Tony Award winners. It stages some of the best summer theater on the Cape. To lose it would be a cultural catastrophe for both Chatham and the Cape.
Oscar Wilde called theater “the greatest of all art forms.” Its presence makes a community richer. With support from the community, the curtain will once again rise at both Monomoy Theatre and the Academy Playhouse.