History of the Mansfield Playhouse
A Legacy Since 1929
The Mansfield Playhouse is proud to be the second oldest continuously-producing community theater in the state, as well as the largest producing company (according to the Ohio Community Theater Association). Formed in 1929 as the Community Players, the volunteer group produced three shows a year using the stage at John Simpson Junior High School, practicing in a room over the Leland Hotel Garage, and building sets at West First Street School. At one time the renowned author, Louis Bromfield, gave the community players a script written by him and his secretary, George Hawkins, entitled “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.” It was performed at the Ohio Theater and attended by Bromfield. The premiere was covered in such popular magazines as Life and Variety.
In the 1950s, Mansfield’s Little Theatre was born. This volunteer group performed three to four shows a year in the old washhouse behind the Children’s Home. The rent was $100 a year and funds were so short that the members brought leftover paint from their homes, mixed it together and used the resulting mixture to paint the auditorium. Actors, directors, technicians, and audiences moved freely between the Little Theatre and the older Community Players. Eventually Mansfield Little Theatre managed to save $5,000 and decided to search for a permanent home. Business Manager Ed Balyeat found that the First Alliance Church was moving and had put their building up for sale. The Little Theatre merged with the Community Players to form a single non-profit organization, which managed to raise the necessary funds to purchase and renovate the former church, which remains the Mansfield Playhouse to this day.
The first production at the Mansfield Playhouse was Brigadoon in 1967. The audience sat in church pews. Used theater seats were soon purchased from Youngstown, Ohio. The pews were removed, but when the seats failed to arrive on time the pews had to be put back in place. Drapes and chandeliers were purchased from the Leland Hotel just before it was demolished.
In 2020 the Mansfield Playhouse celebrates its 53rd season. Our theater would not be the wonderful place it is without the talent, energy, and time of our Board of Trustees, volunteers, sponsors, patrons, advertisers, and audiences. The Mansfield Playhouse is a success, and will continue to be with the support of our community.
The Mansfield Playhouse, building on its legacy as Ohio’s second oldest continuously-producing community theater, provides a variety of affordable theatrical experiences on both sides of the curtain. We are dedicated to achieving the highest quality in all we do, enriching and educating our audiences and volunteers, and reaching beyond the walls of the Playhouse to embrace all elements of our community.