Huntington Playhouse Stories: The future of Bay's playhouse is unclear
It is a distinct possibility that the Huntington Playhouse may never have another opening night.
Almost a year ago the Cleveland Metroparks announced they would not renew the lease on the Huntington Playhouse. Since then, the last show of the season had been cancelled and most anything of value had been sold off or otherwise disposed of. What's left is the shell of a building full of moldy costumes, standing water and what appears to be a long list of repairs. Even the main curtain is gone.
The Huntington Playhouse building itself is the property of the Cleveland Metroparks and, until last year, was operated by an affiliate. Affiliates are non-profit organizations that are supported, but not operationally funded, by Cleveland Metroparks. These non-profits must be financially stable on their own and usually raise money a variety of ways. BAYarts and the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center are two examples of the dozen or so affiliates that operate within the Metroparks.
The Citizens for Bay Village Community Theater was formed after the announcement to close Huntington, in order to be ready to assume the role of affiliate. Our board President John Hnat and treasurer Bill Thornton have been regular attendees of Cleveland Metroparks public meetings and have had regular contact with the Metroparks board concerning the future of the playhouse property.
Mayor Debbie Sutherland has spoken with Cleveland Metroparks about the path forward for the Huntington Playhouse and she alerted our organization that the Metroparks would gather information about all parties that may be interested in the Huntington Playhouse building. That process has begun.
Keep in mind, the mission of Cleveland Metroparks is to conserve significant natural resources and enhance people’s lives by integrating high-quality outdoor education, recreation and zoological opportunities into people’s lives. The Metroparks are responsible for over 23,000 acres of property. The entire Huntington Reservation is a fraction of one percent of the property they manage. In 2015 alone they acquired another 56 acres of property across Cuyahoga County and that is roughly half the size of the Huntington reservation in Bay Village.
The point is, the future of the Huntington Playhouse and what happens to community theater in Bay Village is not necessarily high on the Metroparks radar, just based on the volume of property for which they are responsible and supporting an arts organization does not directly fit their stated mission.
It is my hope that a theater remains in the picturesque setting of the Huntington Reservation in the area that has already been impressively developed by BAYarts.
It is the Metroparks' decision who they choose as a partner and how they want to move forward on developing the property. The drive and support to bring back an active theater will need to come from the community.
Stay tuned in the next issue for an update on our progress.
Patrick M Meehan
Patrick is Vice President of Education for the Citizens for Bay Village Community Theater. An organization whose goal is to continue to provide quality Community Theater and Theater Education. We are establishing working relationships with civic groups, non-profit organizations, government, and businesses to keep community theater an active and vital part of our city. We are working to develop a proposal that will allow community theater to remain on the Huntington Reservation.