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A summer stock theatre is a theatre that generally presents stage productions only in the summer time in the United States. The name combines the seasonal aspect with a tradition of putting on shows with a resident company and reusing stock company scenery and costumes. Some smaller theatres still continue this tradition, and a few summer stock theatres have become highly regarded theatre festivals. Equity status and pay for actors in these theatres varies greatly, sometimes resulting in sub-minimum wage pay for acting "interns." Often viewed as a starting point for professional actors, stock casts are typically young, just out of high school or still in college.

Summer stock theatres frequently take advantage of better weather by having their productions outdoors.

According to Martha Schmoyer LoMonaco, summer stock consists of "theater companies serving vacationers in largely rural areas of the northeastern United States. The classic summer stock season runs between June and October. Titles change weekly or biweekly. But the stock of scenery, costumes and props, as well as the resident company of actors, gets recycled and reused week after week."[1]



Summer stock started in the 1920s with three theatres: Manhattan Theatre Colony, first started near Peterborough, New Hampshire (1927) and moved to Ogunquit, Maine; the Cape Playhouse, Dennis, Massachusetts (1927); and the Berkshire Playhouse, Stockbridge, Massachusetts (1928). Many of the theatres of the heyday, the 1920s through the 1960s, were in New England. Also called the "straw hat circuit", theatres also were in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, among other states. (There had been earlier summer theatres: the Gardens Theatre, Denver (1890) and Lakewood Playhouse near Skowhegan, Maine (1901 for summer), but they were established stock theatres that had then been used as a summer venue.)[2]

The structure was to present different plays in weekly or biweekly repertory, performed by a resident company, generally between June and September. The usual fare consisted of light comedies, romances, mysteries. The theatres were located in rural areas.[2] Touring companies would carry hand props and costumes to each venue, where sound, lights and set would be awaiting them.

Summer stock provided a training ground for actors and great, inexpensive entertainment for vacationing East Coast urbanites. Craig Mamrick describes Louis Edmonds' early summer stock experience: "Louis spent the summer of 1949 working as part of the repertory company at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Maine...The Ogunquit Playhouse was affiliated with the Manhattan Theatre Colony, an apprentice program that hopeful actors could attend (paying $150 for the summer) to learn their craft and observe--and possibly work with--professionals. Such stage luminaries as Maude Adams, Ethel Barrymore, Lilian Gish, and Ruth Gordon had trod the boards here. Students took classes in acting, stagecraft, makeup, and voice, and if they were talented enough, they might be asked to appear in plays with the resident acting company."[3] Additionally, many notable performers spent their summers on the circuit. Plays and musicals that had closed on Broadway would play the circuit. By 1950, there were 152 Equity companies, including the Ogunquit Playhouse[4] and Skowhegan Playhouse in Maine; the Woodstock Playhouse in upstate New York; Falmouth Playhouse in Massachusetts (burnt down in 1994);[5] Priscilla Beach Theatre in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope (suburban Philadelphia), Pennsylvania (established in 1939). [6] The Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, since renovated with the support of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, was also part of the summer stock circuit.

A similar circuit existed in Florida during the winter. Venues included the Royal Poinciana Playhouse, Palm Beach, Florida (closed since 2004)[7] where performers from Bob Cummings in 1958 to Arlene Francis (1961) and Richard Chamberlin (1966) appeared.[8]


Stars of Broadway, film, and television would regularly spend summers performing in stock. The Council of Stock Theatres (COST) negotiated a special contract with Actors Equity to cover the work of actors and stage managers.[9][10]

John Kenley, an Ohio-based producer, ran his own summer stock circuit, Kenley Players, in Columbus, Dayton, Warren, the Carousel Theatre in Akron, and Canton, Ohio. Starting in 1958 performers such as Dan Dailey in Guys and Dolls, Barbara Eden in Lady in the Dark, and Howard Keel in Kismet appeared. Kenley cast "movie stars and television personalities" who were nationally known.[11] During Gypsy Rose Lee's engagement in Auntie Mame at the Warren theatre, Erik Preminger wrote: "Working for him [John Kenley] was a joy. Everything about his operation was first-class from the director and supporting cast he had assembled through the scenery, props, and costumes...He was attentive, supportive."[12] Performers such as Paul Lynde,[13] Bill Bixby, Karen Morrow, Phyllis Diller, Andy Devine, Gordon MacRae[14] and Patrice Munsel starred in Kenley stock productions. Ethel Merman performed in Call Me Madam at the Kenley Players in 1968 (as well as appearing at the Parker Playhouse and Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami earlier that year).[15]

The Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts opened in 1927 with The Guardsman, starring Basil Rathbone, and has continued through the 2009 season with Hunter Foster and Malcolm Gets.[16]

The Ogunquit Playhouse, begun in 1933, attracted performers such as Maude Adams, Ethel Barrymore, and Laurette Taylor in the early years and more recently, Sally Struthers, Lucie Arnaz, and Lorenzo Lamas.[4]

Performers such as Ginger Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Angela Lansbury, Bob Hope, Zero Mostel, Ann Miller, Jane Powell, and Debbie Reynolds performed at the Cape Cod Music Circus and its sister theatre, the South Shore Music Circus.[17]

Colleen Dewhurst wrote of her experiences in summer stock as a new actress: "My first professional jobs were in summer stock, in small, medium and large companies that presented ten plays in ten weeks from June until Labor Day...At that time, the core of each summer stock company was made up of a stage manager and six resident actors: a leading man and woman, a character man and woman, and an ingenue and a juvenile. In some cases, five or six of the summer plays would be 'star vehicles', featuring a familiar actor or actress."[18]


Some summer theatres specialize in a particular type of production, such as Shakespearean plays, musicals, or even opera. Some notable summer theatres include: Oregon Shakespeare Festival Ashland, Oregon,[19] Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, Grand Lake, Colorado,[20] Summerstock Conservatory, Calgary,[21] Utah Shakespearean Festival, Cedar City, Utah,[22] Santa Fe Opera,[23] Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, Massachusetts,[24] Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge, Massachusetts,[25] Glimmerglass Opera, Cooperstown, New York,[26] and Vancouver's Bard on the Beach.[27]

Circus tent theatre

The Sacramento Music Circus tent in 2001

In 1949, St. John Terrell began a new experience presenting summer stock theatre under an arena-type (circus) tent in Lambertville, New Jersey, the Music circus. This began a new period of outdoor theatre.[28] In 1951 this new style of summer stock made its way west with the addition of the Sacramento Music Circus.

The Cape Cod Music Circus (now the Melody Tent) in Hyannis, Massachusetts opened in 1950, the third tent theatre to open, and The South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset, Massachusetts followed in 1951. A tent theatre had opened earlier in Florida.[17]

The Sacramento Music Circus stage in 2001

Another theatre in the round, the Valley Forge Music Fair (which closed in 1996), in Devon, PA, was opened in 1955 by Shelly Gross, Lee Guber and Frank Ford. They then opened other theatres in the round, including Shady Grove Music Fair in Washington, DC, Painters Mill Music Fair in Maryland (closed in 1991), and the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island, opened in 1956.[29] By 1957, there were 19 tent theatres, many located in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey, and all presenting musicals only. (The musical The Pajama Game was the major show making the tent circuit in the summer of 1957.)[30]

The theatre in the round concept brought Broadway-style musicals to northern California under a big top tent each summer. Original producers Russell Lewis and Howard Young presented their first production, Show Boat, the same opening production at both the Lambertville and the South Shore Music Circus. The original Lambertville theatre closed in 1970, and both the Sacramento and South Shore theatres continue to thrive today. In Sacramento, live musicals in the round are presented in a new permanent complex, The Wells Fargo Pavilion. The South Shore Music Circus and Cape Cod Melody Tent now serve primarily as intimate settings for musical acts including popular singers, oldies groups, and orchestras.

See also


  1. ^ Carter, Alice T."Barn theaters still draw audiences to countryside,", July 17, 2005
  2. ^ a b Wilmeth, p. 629
  3. ^ Hamrick, Craig. Big Lou (2004), iUniverse, ISBN 0595297161, p. 18
  4. ^ a b Ogunquit Playhouse official site, accessed July 22, 2009
  5. ^ McLaughlin, Jeff.Article summary: "Predawn fire destroys Falmouth Playhouse, a summer tradition", The Boston Globe, March 1, 1994, accessed July 22, 2009
  6. ^ "Before the theater fell on hard times in the was part of the straw-hat circuit that showcased stage and screen stars in the summer." D'Alessandro, Gene. "Bucks County Playhouse owner Ralph Miller is celebrating his career and looking ahead to more", The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 18, 2006, p. L03
  7. ^ Kelly, William."Town Council willing to allow Royal Poinciana Playhouse demolition,", April 15, 2009
  8. ^ "Royal Poinciana Playhouse-Merged History, research by Tom Clarie",, April 3, 2006
  9. ^ Armbrust, Roger."Equity-COST Contract Set - Three-year Contract Includes 9-12% Salary Increases,", as published in Backstage, March 26, 1999
  10. ^ Actors Equity Association Agreement and ules Governing Employment in Non-Resident Dramatic Stock, Effective: December 27, 2004, accessed July 22, 2009
  11. ^ Vacha, John. The music went 'round and around, (2004), Kent State University Press, ISBN 0873387988, p. 90
  12. ^ Preminger, Erik Lee. My G-string mother (2004), Frog Books, ISBN 1583940960, p. 172
  13. ^ "Names in the News", The Associated Press, Dateline: Akron, Ohio, July 5, 1979
  14. ^ The Cincinnati Magazine listing for Kenley Players Summer Theatre, shows Milk and Honey starring Gordon MacRae, week of August 1, 1972, and the remainder of August 1972 Theatre listingsCincinnati Magazine, August 1972
  15. ^ Kellow, Brian. Ethel Merman (2007), Viking, ISBN 0670018295, p. 219
  16. ^ Cape Playhouse official site, accessed July 22, 2009
  17. ^ a b Cape Cod Melody Tent, accessed June 22, 2009
  18. ^ Dewhurst, Colleen. Colleen Dewhurst (2002), Simon and Schuster, ISBN 074324270X, p. 74
  19. ^ Oregon Shakespeare Festival official, accessed July 22, 2009
  20. ^ Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre official, accessed July 22, 2009
  21. ^ Summerstock Conservatory official, accessed July 22, 2009
  22. ^ Utah Shakespearean Festival official, accessed july 22, 2009
  23. ^ Santa Fe Opera 2009 Festival, accessed July 22, 2009
  24. ^ Williamstown Theatre Festival official, accessed july 22, 2009
  25. ^ Berkshire Theatre Festival official, accessed July 22, 2009
  26. ^ Glimmerglass Opera official, accessed Jul 22, 2009
  27. ^ Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, accessed July 22, 2009
  28. ^ Music Circus archives, history, show/cast, accessed July 22, 2009
  29. ^ Simonson, Robert.Shelly Gross, Creator of Summer Stock "Music Fairs," Dies at 88,", June 22, 2009
  30. ^ Kirby, Irwinn."Tented Broadway Grows", The Billboard, June 24, 1957, accessed July 24, 2009
  • Wilmeth, Don B., Jacobs, Leonard. The Cambridge Guide to American Theatre (Ed. 2,2007), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521835380

Further reading

  • LoMonaco, Martha Schmoyer. Summer Stock! An American Theatrical Phenomenon (2004), Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 1403965420

External links


Template:Infobox Film

Summer Stock (known as If You Feel Like Singing in the UK) is an MGM musical made in 1950. The film was directed by Charles Walters and stars Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eddie Bracken, Gloria DeHaven, Marjorie Main, and Phil Silvers.

Judy Garland struggled with many personal problems during filming, and Summer Stock proved to be her last MGM movie and also her last pairing with Gene Kelly onscreen. MGM terminated Garland's contract in September 1950.



Judy Garland stars as Jane Falbury, a farmer who allows her actress sister Abigail, played by Gloria DeHaven, to use the barn as a practice stage for her theater troupe. The actors and actresses, including the director Joe Ross (Gene Kelly), repay her hospitality by doing chores around the farm. Although Joe is engaged to Abigail, he begins to fall in love with Jane. Similarly, although Jane is engaged to Orville, she falls in love with Joe. The movie ends in a spectacular final show in the barn itself.

Behind The Scenes

The filming of this movie was sometimes a struggle for Garland. She was facing many pressures in her personal life, including a heavy reliance on prescription medication.

Audiences noticed in the last number Get Happy she appears thinner than in the rest of the film. This is because before performing Get Happy, she had taken two months off and lost a great deal of weight. Garland managed to finish filming the movie, and embarked on a long promised vacation from the studio. Soon, however, she was called back to star with Fred Astaire in the upcoming film Royal Wedding. Once again, Garland struggled to perform at her absolute best in the face of exhaustion and overwork. She was soon fired from the film, and her contract with MGM was terminated through mutual agreement.


The film's most famous scene is the final song-and-dance number "Get Happy" performed by Judy Garland in a suit jacket, hat, and black nylons. This sequence was filmed two months after the rest of the movie, as can be seen by the twenty pounds Garland lost in that time period.

In another notable sequence, Kelly performs a solo dance in a darkened barn, using a newspaper and a creaky board as partners and props; the musical accompaniment reprises "You Wonderful You".

In the film 'Summer Stock', Garland and Kelly share what may be Garland's best dance duet on screen, the swinging "Portland Fancy" where a square dance turns into a heated challenge dance for the two stars.


The film has been referenced many times, mostly the "Get Happy" sequence. At the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards Michael Jackson performed Dangerous, and the beggining of the performance was clearly inspired by the movie. Jackson and his dancers wore suits, and a dancer stood in front of Jackson until the beggining of the song, just like in the movie, in which Judy is covered by a dancer at first. Some excerpts from the song can be heard of Jackson's performance.

Duffy's Rain on Your Parade music video was also inspired by that sequence, and Duffy can be seen wearing an outfit similar to Garland's, and dancinh against a white background along some male dancers dressed in suits.

External links


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