When the sun sets over Park Road in West Hartford, the brightest lights shine from Playhouse on Park, a cozy, cultural icon transforming visitors into new worlds from various backgrounds and genres of plays and musicals. But it wasn’t always a sure thing the theater would be such a pillar in the West Hartford Community.
“We were in the right place at the right time,” said Tracy Flater, Co-Founder and Executive Director, who helped open the theater in 2009. “We opened in June and had our first show the same month. We wanted to give back to the community that supported us as soon as possible.”
During a recent early summer morning, the intimate theater bustled with activity as actors rehearsed, the box office sold tickets and the scenery was prepared for staging "Bandstand," a musical about American WWII soldiers returning home, grappling with the effects of the war, and entering a national radio contest in an effort to rebuild their lives through music.
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While Broadway tickets in New York have increased significantly in recent years, Playhouse on Park offers professional productions with a community feel and at reasonable prices.
“We try to be a good neighbor in our community by bringing awareness of the arts to the residents of West Hartford and throughout Connecticut,” said Flater, who also noted that most tickets range in price from $45-$55, much less than larger theaters. We offer specials and subscriptions which often make a night out even more cost-effective.
"We have five main stage productions that run between three to seven weeks, a dance company in residence, theatre for young audiences productions, comedy nights, and more, so there is something for everyone."
The cost of putting on world-class productions – and filling the seats at the theater – has been no easy feat for Flater and her team. It has been especially challenging after COVID-19 shut down public venues. Arts and culture continue to fight back after years of dark stages and minimum activity.
“It’s a change in lifestyle post-COVID,” said Flater, who added the theater partners with local restaurants to cross promote shows, dinner and drink deals. “Many people prefer now to stay in their homes and watch Netflix, but we’re starting to make a comeback and hope people will come out and enjoy dinner and a show.”
Flater points out that the cost of the tickets and intimacy of the space is what make Playhouse on Park such a unique experience for visitors. In addition, the Park Road neighborhood offers numerous dining options and a community feel for those attending performances.
“The quality of our productions is first rate,” add Flater. “Our audiences are so close to the stage, they become immersed in the performance. It’s an escape from everyday reality.”
Playhouse on Park continues to build momentum, and the quality of the professional and community actors gets better and better, according to Flater. There is also an effort to partner with other arts organizations to ensure a bright future for culture in Connecticut.
“We have a lot of work to do but we’re not giving up,” said Flater. “There is a passion from everyone who walks through these doors, and our goal is to ensure this theater continues as a community hub for many years to come.”
Playhouse on Park
244 Park Road
On Facebook: @Playhouse-on-park
On Instagram: @Playhouseonpark