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. A second phase will include onsite costume storage, new dressing rooms, and upgrades to the sound and lighting systems.
Weathervane Playhouse has been a story of resolve, rebirth, and rekindling through community efforts. The ongoing contributions, donations, and moral support continue to make the chapters in the Weathervane book a true success story.