Established in 1882 as the 'People's Theater,' the Erie Playhouse did not have a permanent base and performed in various venues around the city. The first productions were presented in the H.V. Claus Block building situated on State Street between 10th and 12th Streets (it was here that theater was incorporated as the Erie Civic Theatre Association in 1916) and later at the Reed Hotel near North Park Row between until 1919. The theater then relocated to the Keystone Brass Foundry where it presented an array of performances and productions until 1927.
In 1929, the company built its facility in 1929 on West 7th Street between Peach and Sassafras Streets and operated continuously here until 1965, save for a three-year period during World War II. After the site had been sold to Gannon University, the company moved to the Penn Movie House in Wesleyville where they stayed until 1975 when fire regulations forced the building to be shut down. In 1983, the Erie Civic Theatre Association bought and renovated the Strand Theatre at 13 West 10th Street in downtown Erie, where it's the first production was Annie and which it still occupies today.
The Erie Playhouse promotes theater and the performing arts within the community by offering a range of educational programs, classes, camps and workshops for all ages in the form of a Youtheater Program. Classes cater for all ages from beginners to advanced and include Acting, Musical Theater, Creative Drama and Movement, Voice and Musicianship, Singing for the Stage, College Music Audition Prep, Understanding your Voice, Fundamentals of Music, Basic Musicianship, and Group Voice for Adults. The Playhouse also offers internships and scholarships.
The Erie Playhouse has teamed up with the United Way of Erie County to present a new initiative called PLAYtime, which uses theater and the arts to make books come alive. Designed to help young children enter Kindergarten with a love of books, PLAYtime also aims to provide the building blocks to encourage children to become enthusiastic readers. The program offers classroom sessions and Parent and Me workshops, which encourage learner's families to get involved and promote a love of books at home.
The SHOWSTOPPERS Program presents an opportunity for keen students to be picked for the talented song and dance troupe that performs musical variety shows for functions, festivals, parties and holiday events throughout the year.
Photo: Erie Playhouse