From Stable to Stage…
Weathervane Playhouse had its birth in a barn in Heath, Ohio, July 8, 1969, opening with a most appropriate musical, Good News!. From the first moment, Licking County’s professional summer theater grew in the hearts and minds of the local community.
After having been housed in a barn, a tent, and a large, open-air pavillion, Weathervane Playhouse moved to its permanent location on land provided by the Thomas J. Evans Foundation. It was in the spring 1976, with strong community support from the Newark Area Jaycees and the Ohio National Guard, that the theater was transported and rebuilt in its present location.
The steel-beamed structure created for Weathervane housed eleven years of exciting, enriching productions. Then, early Thanksgiving morning, 1987, the structure succumbed to a tragic fire.
Once again, the community rallied. Financial support came from private and public sectors. Rebuilding advanced through the efforts of JBA Architects, Ree and Brezina Contractors, Craig Young Construction, and Dale Wolford’s and Jim Shoemaker’s Building Trade Classes of the Licking County Joint Vocational School.
Scott Keys, Managing Director during this difficult period, continued his dedicated work for Weathervane and brought the 1988 season to fruition. The first phase of rebuilding was completed just in time for the season opener. On June 15, 1989, the second phase of reconstruction was completed and the structure was dedicated as the Mary A. Alford Memorial Theatre.
The “growing pains” of Weathervane continued in 1994. Just prior to the opening of the season, one of the biggest fires in the history of downtown Newark occurred, destroying the Playhouse’s complete costume collection of some fifteen years. When the plea went out to rebuild the costume stock, the response was overwhelming and continues to this day.
Since the reconstruction of the theater, many improvements have been made. Landscaping, additional parking, theater siding, exterior lighting, refurbishing of the restrooms, the purchase of new light and sound systems, and construction of a catwalk are but a few of the improvements made.
Then Weathervane turned its sights to the education and entertainment of children, embarking on a Children’s Theatre structure. This $135,000 building was made possible through a generous donation from long-time Weathervane supporter Larry W. Anderson, in memory of his wife Dawn Holt Anderson. The remaining monies were collected through a sale of personalized paving bricks that currently make up the “Children’s Walk”, a beautiful pathway leading from our outdoor pavilion to the front entrance of the Children’s Theatre. The structure was completed in the Spring of 1999.
The Larry W. and Dawn Holt Anderson Children’s Theater has proved to be a valuable addition to Weathervane, allowing us to hold acting and singing workshops and other events, with many more scheduled for the upcoming seasons.
In 2007, Weathervane launched the “Next Stage” Capital Campaign to renovate and climate control the main stage, lobby, and Children’s Theatre, completing the first phase of construction in summer 2010.
Shortly following the dedication of this major renovation, Weathervane lost a valued friend and a passionate leader when Matthew Trombetta, Managing Artistic Director, was killed in a tragic car accident on June 13, 2010. As a tribute, the Matthew Trombetta Theatre Arts Building Fund was created to improve the theatre’s creative spaces – a goal embraced by Matthew.
In December 2013, the Playhouse produced its inaugural winter show, Les Misérables, as part of its annual season. The financial generosity of a group of community members, forever known as The Founders of the Winter Show, has assured this annual winter event.
Weathervane continues to improve its facilities. New lighting instruments and a new lighting grid, an updated backstage/front-of-house communication system, and equipment for the hearing impaired in our audience were added in 2012. For the 2013 season, the main-stage floor was re-constructed, a new sound system installed, and a new digital piano was given as a gift to the theatre. In 2014, repairs were made to the driveway and parking lot and more handicap parking spaces were added. Additionally, a lighting grid was installed and lighting and acoustical upgrades were made in The Larry W. and Dawn Holt Anderson Children’s Theatre. In May 2015, the main theatre seating was upgraded. Plush, blue velvet seats were installed, as well as hardwood flooring and new carpeting. The seats were a generous gift from the recently demolished Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Columbus. Funding to further the completion of the project was received from The Energy Cooperative Operation Round Up Foundation and many community supporters.
Construction on the Matthew Trombetta Artistic Wing began on November 4, 2015 and
was dedicated to Matthew on August 7, 2016. This new wing takes the Playhouse to the next level of serving quality theatre arts to Licking County and the surrounding communities. The new building houses larger dressing rooms and a costume shop, as well as the James W. and Jeanetta B. Pyle Rehearsal Hall, which serves as the main stage rehearsal space and classroom space to support the rapid expansion of Weathervane’s Young Artists’ Repertory Theatre (WYART) programming. The new wing also includes the Molly K. Anderson Costume Collection, a climate controlled storage space for Weathervane’s extensive costume stock.
In October 2016, the Playhouse further expanded its main stage season and produced its inaugural fall show, The Fantasticks. Much like the winter show, the financial generosity of a group of community members, forever known as the Fall Show Founders, has assured this annual fall event.
Weathervane Playhouse is a perpetual epic of resolve, rebirth, and rekindling through
the efforts of the community. Your ongoing donations, sponsorships, contributions, and
moral support are sincerely appreciated and continue to make the Weathervane story
one that keeps our community a rich and vibrant place in which to live.