Theatres in Small Pennsylvnia Towns
A production at the Gretna Theatre in Mt. Gretna (Credit: Gretna Theatre)

Live performances in small towns afford theater lovers the opportunity to see productions without having to travel far, while giving local creatives an outlet for their talents.

Local theater companies and the venues where they stage productions are invaluable to the regions they serve.

Live performances afford theater lovers the opportunity to experience plays and musicals at an affordable ticket price, and without having to travel far from home. They also often give local residents who enjoy participating in all aspects of theater — and who aren’t in the “biz” full time — an outlet for their talents. Many also offer workshops and camps for youth, giving kids a place to explore their artistic side and express their creativity.

There are local theater companies and performance spaces throughout the state that offer all of these benefits and much more. Here are eight to check out:

Actors and Artists of Fayette County

A nonprofit organization that’s been around since 1975, Actors and Artists of Fayette County (AAFC) is focused on the fine and performing arts. In 1988, AAFC became the theater company in residence at what is now Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale. The theater’s most recent production was “Frozen, Jr.,” a family musical based on the Disney film.

In addition to being the home of Actors and Artists, the community-minded Geyer Performing Arts Center also is home to the Geyer After School Program, a free after school program for creative kids 5-18. Students in the program receive theater education, homework help, and more. 

Location: 111 Pittsburgh St. Scottdale, Westmoreland County

Blue Ridge Theatre Guild

The independent nonprofit Blue Ridge Theatre Guild serves communities in and around Blue Ridge Summit, performing at various locations throughout the region. The group puts on one or two performances each year, mostly well-known plays and musicals that previously ran on Broadway. Their most recent performance was “From The Haunted Mind of Edgar Allan Poe!” The guild gives back to the community with a bi-annual highway cleanup.

Location: Franklin County

The Shawnee Playhouse

On and off for over 100 years, The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on Delaware has entertained the community. From its inception in 1904 until the mid-1900s, the playhouse hosted performances and a famous radio program. It eventually fell into disuse until it was restored in the late 1970s and was rebuilt again after a fire in 1985. It’s the theater that won’t quit. 

The biggest “small” theater on this list hosts various events including one night performances and runs of plays and musicals. Its most recent production was “A Christmas Carol” and its next upcoming production is Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” It also hosts a summer theater arts camp for kids.

Location: 552 River Rd., Shawnee on Delaware, Monroe County

Community Theater League

Located in Williamsport, Community Theater League has served the region since 1976. Since 1999, its home has been at the McDade Trade and Transit Centre building where they have a permanent three-sided stage with 170 seats. Its most recent stage production was “Miracle on 34th Street” and its next production will be Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki Tikki Tavi.” The theater hosts several performances throughout the year and offers season flex passes that save attendees money on multiple performances.

The League also has a summer camp that encourages local youth to get involved in musicals and dramas and hosts an Oscars-like awards show for the actors of local high school performances.

Location: 100 West Third St., Williamsport, Lycoming County

Butler Little Theatre

The non-profit Butler Little Theatre is one of the oldest continuously active theater groups in the United States. Butler presents full-stage productions of Broadway shows using all volunteers. Its most recent performance was “A Christmas Carol” and its next performance will be the 2018 Broadway play “The Lifespan of Fact.”

The theater offers youth workshops throughout the year, each culminating in a 30-minute showcase for families.

Location: One Howard St., Butler, Butler County

Gretna Theatre

One of the oldest summer stock theaters in the United States, the non-profit Gretna Theatre serves the arts/resort community of Mt. Gretna. The original playhouse dates back to 1892 but was rebuilt in 1995 after its roof collapsed from snow a year earlier. Several big names have graced the Gretna stage including Bernadette Peters, Charlton Heston, Faith Prince, Laurie Beechman, and Sally Struthers. The theater hosts various performances throughout the year, but its main productions happen in the summer. The first slated performance for the summer 2023 season is the Broadway smash “JEKYLL & HYDE in Concert.”

The theater serves the community by taking small productions into schools and community organizations and offering workshops, classes, and camps for all ages and experience levels.

Location: 200 Pennsylvania Ave., Mt. Gretna, Lebanon County 

Colonial Playhouse

Located in Alden, the Colonial Playhouse traces its roots back to the 1930s with a group called the Alden Funsters. That group eventually morphed into the nonprofit Colonial Playhouse which now performs several plays and musicals a year. Its most recent performance was family favorite “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and the next upcoming show will be “Cemetery Club.”

On the second Saturday of the month, the playhouse has an interactive family show.

Location: 522 W Magnolia Ave. Alden, Delaware County

Stone Arch Players

Entering its 56th season, Stone Arch Players in Burnham offers a major production each fall, winter, and spring with performances in its 127 seat theater. Its most recent production was “Sandy Toes & Salty Kisses” and its first performance of the upcoming 2023 season will be “Drinking Habits: A Play.” 

Location: 324 South Logan Blvd., Burnham, Mifflin County

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