The Alleghenies offer quite the stage for community
By DAVE HURST © 2017 Hurst Media Works Aug 9, 2017
Here within the Allegheny Mountains, there can’t be many places that rival the Mountain Playhouse
and Green Gables Restaurant in Jennerstown for their combination of cultural significance and
The complex is nestled on the western side of picturesque little Stoughton Lake. Along with
manicured greenery, the grounds boast bedrock-defined flower beds, generations-old trees and
shrubbery, and carved Grecian-style statues that once stood in a formal garden owned by Bethlehem
Steel founder Charles Schwab.
Green Gables is a rustic, roughhewn place that seems to rise as naturally from the landscape as if it
had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (It wasn’t.) Mountain Playhouse originally was a gristmill,
and its mortared logs, plank flooring and mill mechanisms draw as much attention as its simple little
But that simple little stage has been the scene of drama, comedy and musicals for 78 years, since its
founding in 1939 by James Stoughton. Today, Mountain Playhouse is Pennsylvania’s oldest “summer
stock” theater — and one of only 12 remaining in the United States.
To be a professional stock theater, actors need to be card-carrying members of the Actors Equity
Association, directors need to be members of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers,
and musicians need to be in the American Federation of Music.
In other words, the Mountain Playhouse is a union shop. But that also guarantees audiences that
they’ll be seeing professionally staged productions on that simple little stage in an old log mill.
Currently, you can see “Caught in the Net” through Aug. 20. Visit MountainPlayhouse.org.
The appeal of New York-quality theatre, within such historical ambiance, set within such rustically
beautiful splendor, have kept audiences coming back here long after other summer stock theaters
have taken their final bows.
This location somehow seems to capture much of the “Laurel Highlands” concept within a few square
acres. But it certainly is not the only theatre happening in picturesque and historical settings within
You can’t get much more historical in setting than Old Bedford Village, a collection of original and
rebuilt 18th- and 19th-century buildings near Bedford. And for the past 34 years, Old Bedford Village
has been home to an active community theatre group called The Bedford County Players.
This weekend through Sunday, you can enjoy their current production, “Harvey.” For more
information, visit BedfordCountyPlayers.com. Or call 814-623-7555.
The Freeport Theatre Festival is another well-established community theater group, guided for 28
seasons now by co-founders and artistic directors Marushka and Rennick Steele, who also provide
the venue: a barn on the Steeles’ farm located between Freeport and Leechburg.
Rennick Steele’s a prolific playwright, who frequently finds his inspiration in the colorful and turbulent
history of the 18th-century Alle-Kiski Valley. But this season the Steeles are opting for classic
comedies, including “Barefoot in the Park,” Aug. 18-20 and 25-27. Call 724-295-1934 for information.
Another culturally rich and historical location with a long tradition of summer theatre is Saint Vincent
College in Latrobe. Which is interesting, because one would think that with few students on campus,
the summer would not be an active time for theater there.
But 49 years ago, a Benedictine monk, the Rev. Tom Devereaux O.S.B launched the Saint Vincent
College Summer Theater, combining alumni of SVC with others from Seton Hill College and
Today, much like Mountain Playhouse, this is a professional Actors Equity theater, producing about
three to four shows a year. Currently, the Summer Theatre is offering “My Way: A Musical Tribute to
Frank Sinatra” through Aug. 20. To learn more, go to StVincent.edu and click on “Community Events.”
You could make quite a day of it at Saint Vincent’s, taking in some of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training
camp currently underway and then combining it with the Sinatra show.
Here’s another instance where a long-running summer theatre helps to form the essence of the