Society Hill Playhouse to Close
Society Hill Playhouse, a fixture on the Philadelphia theater scene since 1959, will close on April 1.
The theater company made the announcement on its website last Thursday; it sent out a press release on Tuesday.
In more than 50 years, the company “has produced hundreds of American and European premieres; developed many notable programs; trained countless artists and technicians and true to its mission, (and) remained unique in its dedication to contemporary theatre and the community,” the company said in a statement announcing the closure.
It was the latest sign that the theater scene in Philadelphia is in flux. Flashpoint Theater has also announced its intention to close this year; Shubin Theatre closed last month. Even a relative giant like the Philadelphia Theatre Company isn’t far removed from having received a bailout from the namesake of its Suzanne Roberts Theatre.
David Fox, a Penn lecturer on theater arts, and a longtime Philly drama critic, suggested a variety of factors are at work — and that there’s plenty of life left in the city’s theater community.
“This is a very complicated question, and you’ll get different perspectives and responses from different theaters,” he said via email. “I *don’t* think it’s simply a decline — in some ways, our theater scene is as vibrant as I’ve ever seen it (and I’ve been in Philly for 25 years, and a critic for 15 or so).
“But there’s no doubt the economic downturn is one factor, real estate another (some of these spaces can bring in more money if they’re used for things other than theater), and in some cases I think it’s (as you say) a natural evolution to meet a changing cultural scene,” he said.
Indeed, there are also signs of good news. Wilma Theater is in the midst of a $10 million fundraising campaign and will soon get a makeover, along with a new name; and The Drake will soon be hosting a number of theater companies in its new space.
As for the Society Hill Playhouse, however: An indoor yard sale will be held March 13; a “goodbye party” is scheduled for March 25 — attendees are asked to RSVP the playhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.