The Cape Cod Playhouse: A Summer Tradition

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Cape Cod Summer TheaterThe first time I went to a production at the Playhouse as an adult was in the summer of 2004, our first season as owners of our Inn on Cape Cod. It was a sultry evening in July, and I was excited to finally experience one of Cape Cod’s quintessential summer traditions. The evening’s offering was a tribute to Louie Armstrong called “Sachmo”. We had seats in the balcony, and as we climbed the stairs to the mezzanine I had what can only be called an “olfactory” memory. The whole inside of the Playhouse is wood–floor, walls, ceiling, seats–and the aroma emanating from within reminded me of the cottage my folks used to rent in Brewster for two weeks every summer. Overcome with a flood of fond childhood memories, I literally pressed my nose against the walls of the stairway and inhaled, much to the chagrin of my husband who was mortally embarrassed by my behavior. Nonplussed, I continued my reverence of the interior of the Playhouse, taking quiet pleasure in a déjà vu of vacationing on Cape Cod as a child.

The Cape Cod Playhouse announced its 2010 lineup this week. America’s Oldest Professional Summer Theatre, the Playhouse is celebrating more than 80 seasons this year. The 2010 offerings include Hitchcock’s 39 Steps and Hairspray, among others.

A former 19th century Unitarian Meeting House, the property, which was to become the Cape Cod Playhouse and bring “Broadway to Cape Cod”, was purchased by Raymond Moore in 1927. Moore had been involved in theatrical productions in Provincetown for several summers, but his dream was to have a theater of his own. So, for $200 he purchased the Meeting House, moved it to its current location on Route 6A in Dennis, and converted it into a theater. The Playhouse opened on July 4, 1927 with a production of The Guardsman, starring Basil Rathbone, thus beginning a Cape Cod tradition that has lasted more than 80 years.

Throughout its history, the Playhouse has attracted many notable stars, including Bette Davis, Gregory Peck, Gertrude Lawrence, Lana Turner, Ginger Rogers, Humphrey Bogart, Tallulah Bankhead, Helen Hayes, Julie Harris, and Paulette Goddard.

The performance that first night was wonderful, as is every one we have seen since, and I look forward to the upcoming season. In addition to their matinee and evening offerings, the Cape Cod Playhouse also hosts a Children’s Theater series, with everything from magicians to musicals to classic fairytales as a way of introducing young people to the joy of live theater. It’s a grand outing for locals and visitors alike, and I for one plan on taking my grandchildren to at least one or two performances this summer. Hope to see you there!