Board of Directors
The Ghent Playhouse
The Ghent Playhouse is a non-profit, volunteer-run theater. Now in its 48th Season, the Ghent Playhouse is a fully-functioning, handicap-accessible jewel of a theater situated in Ghent, New York, is equipped with comfortable new seating, modern, accessible restrooms, and air conditioning. The historic Greek-Revival building also houses a set shop, kitchenette, dressing rooms, actors’ restroom, costume and prop storage, and sophisticated LED lighting and sound systems. Drawing talent from all around the Hudson Valley, the Berkshires, and beyond, the Ghent Playhouse presents five diverse productions each year.
In July of 1893, the Ghent Town Board purchased land from John H. Rivenburgh and his wife, Sara for $100. In September of that same year, $1,000 was borrowed from the State Bank of Chatham, for the purposes of financing and constructing the first Ghent Town Hall. By February 1894, the Town Board had moved into the new structure, calling it the “Town House.” In 1910, the Electric Light Company of Chatham installed the first electric lights in the building at a budget “not to exceed $20.” At the 1915 September Town Board meeting, it was agreed to build a large addition onto the rear of the building, in order to house a stage. A dance was held to raise money for the project. The addition of the stage allowed room for more dancing down on the floor, and a place for the local Ghent Fire Company and Ghent Band to perform. In 1933, even the traveling “Gibbs Vaudeville Show” rented the space on their tour through town.
In 1976, in celebration of the Bicentennial, the Town Board purchased two oak trees, which were planted on either side of the building, along with a commemorative plaque placed in front; both the trees and the plaque remain today. By the late 1980’s, the town had more than outgrown the small, outdated wooden building, which at that time also housed the Post Office and all of the town offices. In 1987, the town vacated the building, moving their offices further up Route 66 and into the larger, now vacant, former Ghent School, leaving the Town Hall empty.
Meanwhile, in 1974, a group of young actors formed the Columbia Civic Players, a nomadic group that performed wherever and whenever space was available – auditoriums, church halls and even local restaurants! In 1987, under the direction of Barbara Perry, the “Players” were able to lease the former Ghent Town Hall. After several years of fundraising, construction and renovations, the first production, “Carnival,” premiered in January 1989 in their new home, and was presented free of charge to all of its new neighbors in Ghent. In 2001, the building was officially purchased from the Town, and after a successful Capital campaign, an extensive construction and upgrade project began. The project added much needed additional space backstage that included dressing rooms, more storage and new public restrooms. That same year, the group officially became known as The Ghent Playhouse, Inc. Today, the Ghent Playhouse continues to thrive and has become a celebrated arts organization in the region.
During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the community once again rallied around the organization. The Playhouse was able to raise enough money to keep it on its feet during a 20-month closure, resulting in a successful 2021-22 Season reopening!