Founded in 1989, Park Playhouse has been producing free, outdoor summer theatre in Albany’s Washington Park for over 21 years. Original Executive Producer Dr. Mimi Scott and Original Artistic Director Venustiano Borromeo worked to expand the program rapidly in it’s infancy. After just a few short years, Park Playhouse was attracting audiences of thousands, and the City of Albany transformed the hillside opposite the Lakehouse stage into a stepped amphitheatre allowing comfortable seating for 1,500. In 1995, under the direction of Mayor Gerald D. Jennings, the Park Playhouse II Youth Theatre Training Program was created to help train the area’s next generation of theatre artists. That program has grown by leaps and bounds through the dedication of Director of Education Shirley Arensberg. In 2006, in an effort to bring theatrical training to young students in the Albany area, a Park Playhouse after-school program was created in the City School District of Albany.
In 2010, Park Playhouse hired Owen M. Smith, a graduate of Park Playhouse II, to come on board as the new Producing Artistic Director of the company. Recent years have seen great growth for the company, with several of Park Playhouse’s most successful productions ever being featured in Washington Park. As stated in Metroland, “Park Playhouse has evolved into something truly adventurous and special.” In addition to enhancements in the quality of the professional summer productions, great strides have been made in the area of arts education in recent seasons. The Park Playhouse Kids training program is now a featured element of the summer calendar, serving students ages 9-12. Park Playhouse maintains an on-going workshop program throughout the off-season, allowing students to engage in theatrical training through dance classes and introductory Performing Artists’ Workshop classes for beginners. Scholastic touring productions are also mounted throughout the year, bringing professional live theatre into elementary schools in Albany and the surrounding area, serving over 15,000 students annually.
The company entered into a strategic alliance with The Palace Performing Arts Center Inc. (the organization that operates Albany’s Palace Theatre downtown) in 2013, sharing resources and staff and enhancing the effectiveness of both organizations. Park Playhouse remains proud of its rich history and looks forward to a bright future yet to come!