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Timeline of Significant Events and
Selected Appearances by Notable Artists

1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979 1980-1989 1990-1999 2000-2009 2010-2019 



Main portion of building constructed by R&H Haight for use as tannery and shop for manufacture of hatters' leathers


Improvements to property that raised tax valuation from $1000 to $1400


Charles H. Kemper purchased plant from Henry Haight's widow


Kemper installed steam-powered cider mill

Winter 1930

Property with assessed value of $14,000, unused since the 1920s, acquired by Lawrence Langner, co-founder of the Theatre Guild in New York City, and his wife, Armina Marshall Langner


Broadway theatrical designer Cleon Throckmorten transformed barn into a 499-seat theatre with a distinctive red and gold interior, and a stage large enough to accommodate Broadway-bound plays

June 29, 1931

Westport Country Playhouse opened with Dorothy Gish in The Streets of New York


Kitty Carlisle in Champagne Sec


Burgess Meredith in Hide and Seek


Ruth Gordon in The Country Wife


Eva Le Gallienne in Love for Love and Camille; Dorothy Gish in Russet Mantle


Henry Fonda in The Virginian


Ethel Barrymore in The Constant Wife


Gene Kelly, Betty Comden & Adolph Green in Magazine Page; Ruth Gordon in Here Today


Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones


Composer Richard Rodgers saw Playhouse production of Green Grow the Lilacs, and wrote Oklahoma! with Oscar Hammerstein, based on the play. Oklahoma! became the Theatre Guild's greatest success, running on Broadway from 1943 to 1949.


Tyrone Power in Liliom, directed by Lee Strasberg.


Playhouse closed during World War II


Managing Director Martin Manulas instituted apprentice system used in many summer theatres.


June Havoc in They Knew What They Wanted; Olivia de Havilland in What Every Woman Knows; playwright Thornton Wilder as the Stage Manager in his play Our Town.


Tallulah Bankhead in Noel Coward's Private Lives


Playwright Thornton Wilder acting in his play of The Skin of Our Teeth


Playhouse renovated to expand orchestra seating capacity. Architect was Edward L. Howard of Westport, and builder was Theodore Dachenhausen of Redding.


Helen Hayes and her daughter, Mary MacArthur, in Good Housekeeping; Carl Reiner in Pretty Penny; Shirley Booth in the world premiere of William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba transfers to Broadway


Maureen Stapleton in My Fiddle Has Three Strings"; Maurice Evans in The Devil's Disciple"; Franchot Tone in The Second Man.


Mezzanine added to increase seating capacity to 725 (reduced to 707 in recognition of current fire codes)


Claudette Colbert in Island Fling; Olivia de Havilland in Candida


Opening night of Playhouse production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion inspired Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe to adapt play into the musical My Fair Lady.


John Forsythe in Dangerous Corner and The Hasty Heart


Eva Gabor in Sailor's Delight and The Play's the Thing, Lillian Gish in The Trip to Bountiful


Imogene Coca in Happy Birthday; Richard Kiley in Candle-Light


Richard Kiley in Heaven Can Wait; Eva Marie Saint in The Rainmaker

mid 1950s

Restaurant built adjacent to Playhouse and operated initially by the Playhouse as the Players Tavern


Lillian & Dorothy Gish in The Chalk Garden; Bea Lillie in Beasop's Fables


Eartha Kitt in Mrs. Patterson; Jessica Tandy & Hume Cronyn in Man in the Dog Suit


Last summer season produced by the Langners


Groucho Marx in A Time for Elizabeth which he co-authored; Bert Lahr in Visit to a Small Planet


TV producer-director Henry Weinstein and lawyer Laurence Feldman, assumed control of the Playhouse with James B. McKenzie as general manager.


Eli Wallach & Anne Jackson in The Glass Menagerie; Tony Randall in Arms and the Man


James B. McKenzie promoted to co-producer of the Playhouse.


Joan Fontaine in Susan and God; Jane Fonda in No Concern of Mine; Mike Nichols & Elaine May in An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May


Cyril Ritchard & Cornelia Otis Skinner in The Pleasure of His Company; Gloria Swanson in Between Seasons


Tallulah Bankhead in Here Today; Sammy Davis, Jr. in Desperate Hours; Lawrence Langner died suddenly on the night after Christmas.


Laurence Feldman was killed and Henry Weinstein left to produce pictures at 20th Century Fox. James B. McKenzie formed a new partnership, The Producing Managers Company, with Ralph Roseman and Spofford Beadle, to lease and operate the Playhouse. McKenzie became executive producer, a title he would hold for the remainder of the century.


Teresa Wright in Tchin-Tchin; Carol Channing in The Millionairess; Hermione Gingold in Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad


Joel Grey in Stop the World, I Want to Get Off; Helen Hayes in The White House; Liza Minnelli in The Fantasticks

Spring 1965

George Bernard Shaw Repertory Festival with Michael Allinson, Dina Merrill, Lois Nettleton and Bramwell Fletcher


Tammy Grimes in The Private Ear and the Public Eye; Joan Fontaine in Unexpected Guest


Cicely Tyson and Alan Alda in The Owl and the Pussycat; Tom Ewell in Life with Father


Barbara Bel Geddes in Wait Until Dark; E.G. Marshall in A Singular Man, Betsy Palmer in Luv


Geraldine Page in The Little Foxes; Shirley Booth in Desk Set


Keir Dullea, Blythe Danner and Maureen O'Sullivan in Butterflies Are Free transfers to Broadway


Noel Harrison in Blithe Spirit; Shirley Booth in Best of Friends


Colleen Dewhurst in The Big Coca Cola Swamp in the Sky; Geraldine Page and Rip Torn in Marriage and Money


Mickey Rooney in See How They Run; Robert Stack in Remember Me


The not-for-profit Connecticut Theatre Foundation, Inc. was created to operate the Playhouse with Ina Bradley as Board President and James B. McKenzie as Executive Producer.


Jose Ferrer in A Song for Cyrano; Art Carney in Prisoner of 2nd Avenue


Jack Guilford and Lou Jacobi in The Sunshine Boys


Lynn Redgrave in The Two of Us; Theodore Bikel in The Good Doctor; Tammy Grimes in In Praise of Love


Eva Marie Saint in The Fatal Weakness


Jane Alexander and Richard Kiley in The Master Builder


Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in Out on a Limb; Louis Jourdan in 13 Rue De L'Amour


Vincent Price in Diversions & Delights


50th Anniversary Season, The Streets of New York; Sada Thompson in Children; Richard Thomas in Whose Life Is It Anyway?


Eva Le Gallienne in To Grandmother's House We Go


Eileen Heckart in What I Did Last Summer; Cybill Shepherd in Lunch Hour; Pat Carroll in Gertrude Stein


Shelly Winters in 84 Charing Cross Road


Geraldine Page and Sandy Dennis in Agnes of God; Betsy Palmer in Breakfast with Les and Bess


Playhouse threatened with demolition when Philip Langner, who had acquired the property from his parents, sought to sell the acreage for use as a shopping center or condo complex. The Playhouse Limited Partnership, with McKenzie as General Partner, was formed to purchase the property for $1.2 million.


Leslie Caron in One for the Tango; a Fall Season includes Christopher Walken and Katharine Houghton in A Bill of Divorcement


Colleen Dewhurst in Real Estate


Lee Richardson and Frances Sternhagen in All My Sons; Doubles by David Wiltse, George Grizzard in The Perfect Party


Arlene Francis and David Birney in Social Security


Elizabeth Ashley in All the Queen's Men; Words and Music with Sammy Cahn

March 19, 1990

Playhouse entered on the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places


Fritz Weaver and Elizabeth Wilson in The Cocktail Hour


Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men, directed by Steve Karp, wins Connecticut Critics Circle Awards for Best Play and Best Director


Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Best Musical goes to Kander & Ebb's The World Goes 'Round, directed by Scott Ellis, choreographed by Susan Stroman, with Marin Mazzie and Karen Ziemba


James B. McKenzie receives the Tom Killen Award presented by the Connecticut Critics Circle for extraordinary contributions to Connecticut's professional theatre


Charles Cioffi in The Substance of Fire


Jerry Stiller, Estelle Harris and Amy Stiller in Beau Jest; Victoria Tennant in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew


Eileen Heckart in The Cemetery Club; Roy Dotrice and Maxwell Caulfield in The Woman in Black


Charles Durning, James Handy and Dan Lauria in Men in Suits


Jane Powell, Anne Meara, Jerry Stiller and Paul Benedict in After-Play; An Evening with Jerry Herman, starring himself


Jean Stapleton in Eleanor – Her Secret Journey


James Naughton in Street of Dreams; Michael Learned and Ralph Waite in Chasing Monsters; Tim Conway in A Bench in the Sun; Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play awarded to Frank Ferrante as Groucho Marx in Groucho – A Life in Revue, by Arthur Marx and Robert Fisher, directed by Ferrante

January 18, 2000

James B. McKenzie retires as Executive Producer after 41 years at the Playhouse


Connecticut Theatre Foundation Board Members Joanne Woodward and Anne Keefe named Co-Chairs of the Artistic Advisory Council and assume responsibility for artistic direction of the Playhouse

January 2000

Kick-off of the $30.6 million Campaign for a New Era to revitalize and renovate the Playhouse

February 7, 2000

Playhouse designated as an Official Project of Save America's Treasures by the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Feb. 13, 2000

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman read Love Letters by A. R. Gurney as a fundraising event

February 23, 2000

Playhouse recognized as a Connecticut Treasure by Connecticut Lieutenant Governor M. Jodi Rell

Summer 2000

The Constant Wife directed by Joanne Woodward; Ancestral Voices by A. R. Gurney with first week cast Jane Curtin, Neil Patrick Harris, Fritz Weaver, Elizabeth Wilson, Frank Converse, second week cast Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Paul Rudd, Swoosie Kurtz, James Naughton

December 31, 2000

Connecticut Theatre Foundation, Inc. acquires 100% of the shares of the Playhouse Limited Partnership and so becomes owner of the Playhouse and adjacent restaurant

June 2001

Joanne Woodward named Artistic Director of the Westport Country Playhouse

Summer 2001

Gene Wilder in Don't Make Me Laugh; Three Days of Rain directed by Joanne Woodward; David Wiltse's Temporary Help with Jeffrey
DeMunn and Karen Allen

October 28, 2001

For the Children, a special benefit performance to aid the families
affected by 9/11/01, with Kristin Chenoweth, James Naughton, Paul Newman, Christopher Plummer, Gene Wilder, Joanne Woodward

June 2002

Our Town directed by James Naughton, with Paul Newman; Master Harold…and the Boys by Athol Fugard, with Leon Addison Brown who receives the Connecticut Critic Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play

June 7, 2002

Playhouse officially announces plans to renovate and expand its theater facilities over the next few years

Oct. 28, 2002

Bob Wright, Vice Chairman & Executive Officer of GE and Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of NBC, signs on as chairman of the historic theater's $30+ million renovation campaign, supported in his efforts by his wife Suzanne

November 2002

Playhouse production of Our Town transfers to Broadway's Booth
Theatre for limited run, playing to 100% capacity

May 23, 2003

Playhouse production of Our Town airs on Showtime and later in the year on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre. Paul Newman receives 2003 Tony and Emmy Award nominations for his performance as Stage Manager.

Summer 2003

The Good German by David Wiltse, directed by James Naughton; The
Old Settler, directed by Tazewell Thompson; All My Sons, directed by
Doug Hughes, with Richard Dreyfuss and Jill Clayburgh, who receives Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play

September 2003

The Streets of New York book-ends 72 seasons of summer theatre as the old barn closes for an 18-month renovation

Oct. 9, 2003

Breaking New Ground: A Celebration! to support the Campaign
for a New Era is hosted by Sean Hayes with performances by
Carole King and Robin Williams

Mar. 10, 2004

The Kresge Foundation awards an $850,000 challenge grant to the Playhouse's Campaign for a New Era

Summer 2004

Ridgefield Playhouse becomes an interim stage while construction is underway. In a special engagement, Paul Newman portrays the title role in Trumbo  

Oct. 14, 2004

Building the Future: A Gala Evening to benefit the Campaign for a
New Era is hosted by Brian Williams with performances by Paul
Newman, Robert Redford and Harry Connick, Jr. and Orchestra

May 2005

An American Theatre – The Story of Westport Country Playhouse
by Richard Somerset-Ward, with Foreword by Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, is published by Yale University Press

May 23, 2005

Ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the re-opening of the Playhouse and its 75th Anniversary Season

June 3, 2005

Christopher Plummer gives the inaugural performance in the
refurbished theatre – A Word or Two, Before You Go

June 27, 2005

Joanne Woodward receives a Special Award of Recognition from the Connecticut Critics Circle for her role in renovating and preserving an historic Connecticut theatre

July, Aug. 2005

The Member of the Wedding, directed by Joanne Woodward; Journey's End, directed by Gregory Boyd

Oct. 15, 2005

Joanne Woodward's six-year tenure as artistic director is saluted with performances by Tony Bennett, Joshua Bell, Glenn Close, Audra McDonald and James Naughton

Fall 2005

The Playhouse is now in year-round mode with The Immigrant directed by Tazewell Thompson; and Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, directed by Anne Keefe and Joanne Woodward

Nov. 16, 2005

The Playhouse receives a 2005 Governor's Arts Award as part of the inaugural Governor's Conference on Culture & Tourism designed to recognize significant achievements in the fields of the performing, visual and literary arts and film; tourism; and heritage preservation within Connecticut 

December 5, 2005

Lucille Lortel Foundation awards a $2 million grant to establish
The Lucille Lortel White Barn Center at the Playhouse

December 31, 2005

The Campaign for a New Era successfully ends, exceeding its $30.6
million goal by $700,000

January 1, 2006

Tazewell Thompson becomes the Playhouse's fourth artistic director.
Joanne Woodward is named artistic director emeritus

January 2006


David Wiltse is appointed Playwright-in-Residence<strong<> </strong<>

Spring 2006

James Earl Jones appears in the world premiere, Thurgood

2006 Season

Productions include Constant Star written and directed by Tazewell
Thompson; A Marriage Minuet by David Wiltse and Charles Dickens'
A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by Tazewell Thompson

Sept. 25, 2006

Returning to the Playhouse after his 1950 apprenticeship, Stephen
Sondheim is saluted on the Playhouse stage with performances by Laura Benanti, Kristin Chenoweth, Barbara Cook and Patti LuPone

October 2006

The Dressing Room: A Homegrown Restaurant, run by Paul Newman and Michel Nischan, opens on Playhouse grounds on the heels of a popular weekly Farmer's Market in the parking lot

December 2006

Jodi Schoenbrun Carter is named Playhouse Managing Director

January 2007

The 2007 year-round season is announced to include the new Kander
and Ebb musical All About Us, and world premieres of Sedition by David Wiltse and Being Alive, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, conceived and directed by Billy Porter

Feb. 10, 2007

Come Be My Love…Love Spoken Here, conceived and directed by Tazewell Thompson, launches an annual Valentine celebration with poetry readings by Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Eartha Kitt, Charles Grodin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joanna Gleason and Chris Sarandon

May 2007

WCP receives grant from The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

Sept. 24, 2007

Award-winning talents Shuler Hensley, Eartha Kitt, Debra Monk, James Naughton, Bebe Neuwirth, David Hyde Pierce, Chita Rivera, Ben Vereen and Karen Ziemba take the stage to celebrate guest of honor John Kander, the Tony Award-winning composer of Chicago, Cabaret and Curtains

January 2, 2008

Joanne Woodward and Anne Keefe return as interim artistic directors for the 2008 season following the departure of Tazewell Thompson

February 2008

Paul Newman is announced to make his professional stage directing debut with the October production of Of Mice and Men, but is forced to withdraw in May due to health reasons

April 2008

Thurgood, which received its world premiere at the Playhouse in 2006, opens on Broadway

June 2008

Hot 'n Cole, a Cole Porter musical revue directed by James Naughton, is the season's biggest audience sensation at 95.7% paid capacity

Summer 2008

One-night-only events are stellar hits with A Conversation with Edward Albee and Kathleen Turner on June 23; and readings of Arsenic and Old Lace with Joanne Woodward, Anne Keefe and Christopher Walken on July 14; and Golden Boy with Marisa Tomei on August 25

September 15, 2008


A sold-out audience attends the annual benefit, Footlights and Film: A Celebration of the Great Musicals from Stage and Screen, hosted by Julia Roberts and featuring a special tribute to Angela Lansbury presented by Bernadette Peters. Suzanne and Bob Wright are honored for their many contributions to the Playhouse with an award presented by Ralph Lauren

October 19, 2008

The Town of Westport and Westport Arts Advisory Committee present a Westport Arts Award for Achievement in Theatre to WCP

October 2008

The 2009 season is announced, which includes Around the World in 80 Days, A. R. Gurney's Children, the Jonathan Larson musical tick, tick... Boom! and Alan Ayckbourn's How the Other Half Loves.

December 2008

Sandra Walters DeFeo is elected president of the Playhouse board
of trustees. Elisabeth Morten, former board president, becomes chairman

February 1, 2009

Theatre veterans Mark Lamos and Michael Ross are named artistic director and managing director, respectively

March 28, 2009

Stage and screen star Kristin Chenoweth, Tony Award winner for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Tony Award nominee for originating the role of Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked, appears in a Benefit Concert

June 15, 2009

2008—2009 Connecticut Critics Circle Award Winners
for Westport Country Playhouse Productions
Outstanding Actress in a Play
Andrea Maulella - Tryst
Outstanding Lighting Design
Robert Wiertzel - Of Mice and Men
Outstanding Sound Design
David Levy - Around the World in 80 Days
Special Achievement Award
Elizabeth Helitzer and Mark Parenti - Around the World in 80 Days

November 2, 2009

At the annual gala, An Enchanted Evening: The Music of Richard Rodgers, special tributes are given to Mary Rodgers Guettel by Stephen Sondheim, both former Playhouse apprentices; and to Elisabeth Morten, chairmen of the board.

December 2009

A Holiday Festival of one-night-only concerts, dance, films and theater, includes This Wonderful Life, The Klezmatics and The Broadway Boys.

April 2010

80th Anniversary Season begins. The five-show series includes a musical and a play directed by Mark Lamos, artistic director.

June 7, 2010

Butterflies Are Free is reprised as a reading 40 years after it transferred from the Playhouse to Broadway – with its original stars – Blythe Danner as the mother and Keir Dullea as the evening's host. Jonathan Groff from Fox television's "Glee" and Betty Gilpin play young couple.

June 14, 2010

2009 – 2010 Connecticut Critics Circle Award Winners
For Westport Country Playhouse Productions

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Mark Lamos – She Loves Me

Outstanding Costume Design

Candice Donnelly – She Loves Me

September 13, 2010

The Magical Music of Stephen Schwartz is the theme of the 2010 gala, saluting the renowned composer for stage and screen.

September 19, 2010

The Malloy Lecture in the Arts is presented by the Westport Public Library at the Playhouse with Remembering Archie (Archibald MacLeish—The Poet and the Man), as told by Christopher Plummer.

September 15 – October 30, 2010

Concurrent with The Diary of Anne Frank, the Playhouse partners with 16 community organizations to present Window onto History: Perspectives on The Diary of Anne Frank. The series includes speakers, panel discussions, films, family events and art exhibits designed to provide a wider context in which to access the life of Anne Frank, the Holocaust, genocide and issues of social justice. 

December 2010

A series of holiday special events includes a concert by Tracie Thoms; The Clowns and Mr. Beckett – An Evening with Bill Irwin and Doug Skinner; The Greatest Gift – A Script in Hand playreading with music; and the return of The Broadway Boys.

March 19, 2011

Playhouse Community Day welcomes over 300 people to backstage tours, set model exhibits and family activities—some put on costumes and try their hand at sword-fighting.

May 1, 2011

In conjunction with the spring production of Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy, a Sunday Symposium features the noted playwright in person, hosted by Mark Lamos.

June 2011

2010-11 Connecticut Critics Circle Award Winners

for Westport Country Playhouse Productions

John Ezell, Scenic Design,

The Diary of Anne Frank

Travis McHale, Lighting Design,

The Diary of Anne Frank


June 20, 2011

A Script-in-Hand reading of A. R. Gurney’s The Golden Age, featuring Kathleen McNenny, Frances Sternhagen and Richard Thomas, is followed by an 80th birthday reception.

June 29, 2011

Westport Country Playhouse celebrates its 80th birthday with distinguished guests Connecticut State Rep Jonathan Steinberg, Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and a former production assistant from 1949 and 1950 Warren Pistey.

September 19, 2011

The annual gala, Playing Our Songs:  Celebrating 80 Years of Musical Theater, honors Bernadette Peters with WCP’s Award for Distinguished Dedication and Service to the American Musical Theater. Peters is a WCP alum (Riverwind).  Other WCP alumni artists at the gala are

Lucie Arnaz, Sheldon Harnick, Tom Jones, Jo Sullivan Loesser, Laurence Luckinbill, James Naughton, Jane Powell and Joanne Woodward.

October 11 – November 5, 2011

Only the third Shakespeare play staged in the Playhouse’s 80-year history, Twelfth Night, or What You Will, is directed by Mark Lamos.


Header Photo: Isaiah Washington (Intimate Apparel). Photo by Carol Rosegg.