Grantee Spotlight: Playhouse on Park

“Passing Strange”, Playhouse on Park, December 2015 | Photo Credit: Rich Wagner

Here at the Greater Hartford Arts Council, our mission includes funding over 150 arts and cultural organizations that help make our community strong and vibrant. That’s why we invest in programs like Neighborhood Studios, our award-winning, nationally recognized summer arts apprenticeship program and organizations that fuel creativity and innovation by awarding grants.

Ignition Grants  fuel the research, design and execution of new strategic plans to support arts and cultural organizations as they strive to create unique and innovative solutions that go beyond “business as usual”—delivering exciting, cutting-edge programs that reflect the creative spirit of our community-and encourage innovation in all aspects of our daily lives.

One of our 2017 Ignition Grantees is Playhouse Theatre Group, Inc. at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford! Playhouse Theatre Group, Inc. and Playhouse on Park are a theatre and theatre troupe, respectively, dedicated to providing quality entertainment at affordable costs to as broad an audience as possible. Co-Founded in May 2009 by Executive Director, Tracy Flater and Co-Artistic Directors Sean Harris and Darlene Zoller, Playhouse on Park offers a variety of theatrical performances and educational and outreach opportunities.

Originally titled “Park Road Playhouse”, the Playhouse has been a fixture in the Park Road neighborhood since 2001. Upon pending closing due to the severe economic climate at the time, Flater, Harris and Zoller were approached by key figures in the West Hartford Community to prevent the Playhouse from closing. Under the leadership of Flater, Harris, and Zoller, the Playhouse, which had primarily been used for local theatrical performances, became a professional theatre attracting award-winning directors from New York City and regional theatre, as well as professional actors, playwrights, and designers.

“When Playhouse on Park opened in 2009, we were committed to making a big impact on the community. Our goal was to always have something going on at Playhouse on Park,” said Meredith Atkinson, Marketing and Public Relations Director at Playhouse on Park. “There is rarely a time when the Playhouse is empty. In our current season alone, we have seven productions in our Main Stage Season, theatre for young audiences, comedy and improvisation nights, and special events. In total, we have 217 individual performances scheduled in Season Eight, spanning August 1, 2016 – July 31, 2017.”

“Metamorpheses”, Playhouse on Park, June 2012 | Photo Credit: Rich Wagner

Atkinson has been involved with Playhouse on Park since March 2015, when her dance instructor, on a lark, asked her if she would be interested in the Marketing and Public Relations position that had opened up. Apparently revisiting her love of tap dancing was the push she needed to advance in her career in communications.

It also doesn’t hurt that her dance instructor was none other than Playhouse on Park co-founder and co-artistic director, Darlene Zoller.

“I’ve always been passionate about self-expression through the arts. I was inspired by the mission of Playhouse on Park, a non-profit professional theater boasting quality entertainment at an affordable cost to its patrons. And not only have we produced amazing shows from musicals to classic dramas; Playhouse on Park is also a home for bourgeoning artists at any age,” Atkinson said. “It’s a privilege to represent an organization that excites and challenges me both as a professional and as a lover of the arts.”

As Atkinson touched upon, one of Playhouse on Park’s most admirable qualities is its dedication to accessibility. As part of its mission, Playhouse on Park is dedicated to making quality performances available to as broad an audience as possible. To achieve their vision, Playhouse on Park offers preview performances where audience members can choose to attend the first two performances for $17.50 per ticket (that’s almost half the cost of a typical Tier 3 ticket for a Main Stage production). They have even worked to cut costs for student admission.

“We greatly reduce our ticket prices from $16 per student to be between $5 – $7 because our community needs more affordable access to the arts. We work with the Hartford Public School system through a program called Hartford Performs, opening our doors to 2,200 students. Hartford Public School students have limited access to the arts in their daily lives, and this program makes it possible for them to develop a love for theatre.”

In addition to producing shows that are beloved by all, Playhouse on Park also strives to bring in shows that challenge their audiences and bring in a diverse demographic. They play a huge role in influencing students interested in the arts and young adults dedicated to seeing the theater and troupe succeed.

“We’ve found shows that speak to a younger generation and broader demographic of theater lovers. In an effort to engage with the younger generation of theater patrons, we recently formed the Young Professionals Advisory Board. The YPAB shared priority is to support the overall mission of the Playhouse by acting as ambassadors for the Playhouse in the Greater Hartford community.”

Members of the Young Professionals Advisory Board have the opportunity to enrich the emerging Park Road and West Hartford arts communities while enhancing their own resumes, developing fundraising skills, and building their professional networks.

“Tuesdays with Morrie”, Playhouse on Park, October 2015 | Photo Credit: Meredith Atkinson

Playhouse on Park deeply values their community relationships and they are proud to bring people together and encourage them to take some time out of their busy lives to enjoy the arts. They work to make West Hartford a destination, and by extension, positively impacting the West Hartford economy. Last season 7,569 people who attended their Main Stage series were from West Hartford. That is 48% of their audiences. The remaining individuals came from elsewhere in the Greater Hartford region (5,102 people, or 32% of their audience), other parts of the state (1,640 people, or 10% of their audience), and from out of state (1,567 people, or 10% of their audience).

No matter what your age, your economic status, or where you’re from, Playhouse on Park has something for you!

Atkinson also added, “We are thankful for how the community has embraced us, and we are happy to be contributing to the town’s unique culture.”

Now Playing at Playhouse on Park: Rockin’ the Forest. Get your tickets here!

         Join our United Arts Campaign to support arts & cultural organizations like Playhouse on Park and build a stronger and more vibrant community in Greater Hartford!