During the mid-1920s, a nationwide craze called the “Little Theatre Movement” swept the country when Americans, unsatisfied with the caliber of commercial dramatic offerings, banded together to produce quality amateur theatre. So on a cold night in February 1926, Harrisburg Community Theatre had its genesis in the basement of the Harrisburg Public Library. Mrs. Robert Peters, president of the Women’s University Club, asked nine other women to join her in exploring the idea of a local, volunteer-based theatre that would produce quality plays. Not only did the ladies explore the issue that night, they took action. Adele Eichler became the first director of HCT and its first play, THE DOVER ROAD, was produced later that year at the old Majestic Theatre in downtown Harrisburg.
While many of HCT’s early productions during the 1920s through the early 1930s were at the Majestic, not all were. Some performances were held at the old City Hall building on Walnut Street (then the Boys’ Technical High School) and some were held in the newly-build William Penn High School. In 1932, HCT started to rent the Jewish Community Center, then located at 1110 North Third Street, and the JCC remained the Theatre’s home for more than 17 years.
Finally, in 1950, 24 years after HCT’s inception, ground was broken for what would become the Theatre’s permanent home at Sixth & Hurlock Streets in uptown Harrisburg. A new era began with HARVEY which opened the1951-52 season and was the first play to be produced at the new facility where performance space, dressing rooms, set construction shop and offices were finally all housed under one roof.
For the next 48 years, and through several major renovations, Harrisburg community Theatre called the building at the corner of Sixth & Hurlock Streets its performance home. During that same period, professional staff was also added to manage, guide and support the Theatre’s artistic mission – a full-time artistic director, managing director, set designer and costume designer all became part of the team.
In 1997, Harrisburg Community Theatre became the first local performing arts organization to make a formal commitment as a resident company at the new Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts on Market Street in downtown Harrisburg. Along with this new status and change of performance venue came a new name, and in the summer of 1999 HCT became known as Theatre Harrisburg. The final Mainstage production at the uptown facility was MAN OF LA MANCHA, and the first Theatre Harrisburg production at Whitaker Center’s Sunoco Performance Theatre was THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP in September 1999.
This change of venue also necessitated yet another renovation to the Hurlock Street facility. Permanent seating was removed and a large rehearsal space was created to simulate the stage dimensions at Whitaker Center. A loading dock was also added to facilitate the transportation of sets and costumes from uptown to downtown. In 2005 the building was renamed The Jay and Nancy Krevsky Production Center; it remains the location for Theatre Harrisburg administrative offices, rehearsals, set construction, prop storage and costume creation and storage.
Beginning with the 2007-2008 season, Theatre Harrisburg began presenting its non-musical Mainstage productions at the Krevsky Production Center again. With highly flexible seating and staging capabilities, this intimate space allows for new performance opportunities including the Theatre’s first production in-the-round.
Throughout its more than eight-decade history, there is one aspect of Theatre Harrisburg’s operation that has never changed – volunteers are the backbone of its success. In addition to its professional staff, it relies upon the support of hundreds of talented, dedicated community volunteers – onstage, back stage, in the office, front of house, constructing sets – to present the high quality theatrical experiences that local audiences have come to expect. It is truly is a place where community takes center stage!