Bucks County Playhouse will turn 80 years old on July 1, and while it began the current decade in disrepair and financial uncertainty, the Playhouse’s current state is very bright.
After a multi-million-dollar renovation by the Bridge Street Foundation in 2012 and through stewardship of the Playhouse’s producing team, Bucks County Playhouse is now in the midst of a renaissance and welcomes more than 80,000 people through its doors every year.
To mark the anniversary, as well as its recent success, the Playhouse is looking to connect the dots and rediscover its colorful past.
Thanks to a grant from the Pfundt Foundation, Bucks County Playhouse has launched The Nelson and Bette Pfundt Playhouse Archive to help uncover and preserve the history of New Hope’s beloved theater.
“When the Playhouse was acquired by Bridge Street Foundation in December 2011, it was completely empty,” said Alexander Fraser, producing director. “Not a program, poster or press clipping could be found. Ever since, we’ve been struggling to piece together a complete and coherent history.
“... We’re looking for playbills, press clippings, posters, photographs, signs, knick-knacks ... all can help shed light on the Playhouse’s storied history. The archive will be professionally preserved and stored, and pieces will be on rotating display at the Playhouse and in its new restaurant, The Deck,” said Fraser.
“We are thrilled that Bucks County Playhouse is back in the driver’s seat, leading the rebirth of New Hope,” said Nelson Pfundt. “Bette and I are delighted to celebrate the Playhouse’s 80th anniversary by creating an archive to rediscover and preserve its history in perpetuity.”
In celebration of the newly established archive and in honor of the 80th anniversary, The New Hope Historical Society is presenting a new exhibit, “80 Years of Bucks County Playhouse.”
The exhibit, running July 6 through Sept. 1, at the Parry Mansion across the street from the Playhouse, will feature memorabilia, ephemera, and images from the historical society’s collection, many of which have never before been displayed, in addition to newly discovered treasures from the Pfundt Playhouse Archive.
The archive project is being managed by David Leopold, who served as curator for the 75th anniversary exhibition on Bucks County Playhouse for the Michener Museum.
Playhouse Historian Peggy McRae and Database Manager Katherine Eastman will assist Leopold in the creation and curatorial implementation of this project.
A production database is being created that, when made public, will give audiences, students and researchers worldwide access to this information.
“We have been fortunate to receive some BCP playbills from devoted patrons,” McRae said.
“These gifts have helped us to chronologically confirm the producers, directors, productions and casts that have graced the Playhouse stage over the past 80 years...”
The Playhouse has already received some significant donations to launch the archive.
The Doylestown Historical Society has provided 284 newspaper clippings/photocopies that originally appeared in The Doylestown Intelligencer, Bucks County Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Towpath Magazine, Panorama Magazine and Bucks County Traveler Magazine from 1939 to 2018, as well as original playbills and some vintage photographs.
Ann Walker Liebgold, daughter of one of the Playhouse’s founders, Don Walker, donated her father’s grand piano. Walker was a Broadway orchestrator for over 100 original productions of classic musicals.
Nita Crowley, whose father John Crowley was General Manager for the Playhouse from 1951 to 1970, has donated her father’s Playhouse collection of over 50 posters and artifacts.
Hugh Marshall, currently a member of the Board of Playhouse Artists, the public charity that supports the Playhouse, is giving the Playhouse a collection of memorabilia and signs that once hung at the venue.
Liz Larsen and Stephanie Vine, whose acting careers began at the Playhouse before going on to Broadway, have donated materials that belonged to their mother, Penny Larsen Vine. Penny served as an actress, press agent and board member at the Playhouse from 1963 to 2009.
Other significant donations have come many Playhouse friends, including Bill and Jean Brenner, David Newhart, Marguerite Quinn, Jessica Walter, and Sallie Bailey Stanert, who gave her father, Playhouse photographer George Bailey’s, negatives from the heyday of the Playhouse.
If you have items you would like to donate to the archive, contact email@example.com or call Producing Associate Jeremy Ehlinger at 267-388-2531.