The Mountain Playhouse Celebrates 75 Years

By Vicki Rock
The Daily American

January 21, 2014

See the full article at www.dailyamerican.com

The Mountain Playhouse in Jennerstown is overcoming financial difficulties to continue to bring live theater to Somerset County.

The playhouse is the oldest professional resident summer theater in Pennsylvania and one of only eight left in the Council of Resident Stock Theatres.

"Who knew on June 24, 1939, that Mountain Playhouse would be thriving in 2014 and marking its 75th anniversary," producer Teresa Stoughton Marafino said.

Her father, James Stoughton, and his sister, Louise Stoughton Maust, developed the idea of the playhouse. He was on the board of the Paint Shop Players in 1937 when their building in Somerset was condemned. He found an abandoned gristmill in Roxbury. The gristmill, built in 1805, was moved log-by-log through the snow to its present site. Today, it is a 393-seat theater.

In 1998 the playhouse was converted to nonprofit status. In addition to support from patrons, the playhouse has corporate sponsors and receives foundation grants. In March 2010 the playhouse first put a hold on that season's productions because of financial problems. It had a debt of $250,000. The board decided to go on with a reduced season and held fundraising events.

"We have a five-or six-year plan and we are on track," Marafino said. "We are definitely not where we were five years ago, but we are making huge progress."

She said the longevity of the theater is because of its ability to adapt and evolve with the times. When the theater started, plays were not produced in May, but by 1953 the playhouse was holding 21 shows in 21 weeks. That evolved in the 1980s and 1990s to 10 shows. Attendance around Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day is rarely what the theater needed. Now the playhouse presents six performances a season.

"There is nothing like live theater and when we started there was nothing else like it here," she said. "Once people get the theater bug they have to keep coming. The Mountain Playhouse is in an idyllic setting. People come early and walk around the grounds."

Subscriptions and individual tickets are available by calling 814-629-9201 or online at www.mountainplayhouse.org.