The Mac-Haydn Theatre
The Mac-Haydn Theatre was founded in 1969 in a rented barn on the Columbia County fairgrounds in Chatham, New York, with a season of six shows, each running for one week, and played to an audience of about 8,500 people.
There were two major goals: To provide professional quality entertainment for the people of the area, and to provide a professional, nurturing atmosphere for young professionals to flourish with the challenges and rewards of a demanding summer stock season.
The theatre performed for eight years on the fairgrounds, moving into the building in June, and moving out at the end of August, in time for the fair. Coinciding with the professional summer stock season, The Mac-Haydn Theatre developed a program for young people, which started with a workshop for youth ages 6-15, and continued with an apprentice program for those 16 and over. The theatre also instituted the first performances for children in the county, with original musicals written by staff professionals, based on famous children's stories and fairytales. These programs, which reach all age groups, was designed not only to give young people a practical introduction to and appreciation of musical theatre, but also as an opportunity to work on skills related to stagecraft and performance, which contributed to the improvement of skills in communication and interpersonal relationships.
In 1975 the theatre became a non-profit organization, and started looking ahead toward having its own facilities, a goal that was realized in 1978 when the theatre moved to its present location in a building once used for a meeting hall, and most recently used as a doll furniture factory.
During the season's first two years in its new facility, at the request of its audiences a fall season was instituted which ran through the end of October. This proved impractical with the building unheated, and the weather uncertain.
The summer program grew into a 15-week season, with 7/8 shows running for two weeks each, and audiences numbering well over 30,000. Children's theatre performances, usually playing to capacity audiences, grew to weekend performances on Friday and Saturday mornings, through July and August. The apprentice program, which is offered exclusively to local young people, includes instructions in acting, voice, and dance, and provides them with the opportunity to perform onstage.
The Children's Theatre Workshop program, which runs for seven weeks, in 2001 trained 64 youngsters and culminated in their own productions. It is taught by two NYS-accredited teachers.
As the theatre celebrated its 33rd anniversary season in 2001, Columbia County now boasts three professional or semi-professional theatres, and a number of community theatre groups. Musical theatre is a vital part of high school programs throughout the area, and there are now a number of teachers of voice, acting, and dance in the area, providing training to hundreds of young people. There are also dozens of art galleries and antique shops. The arts have come alive in Columbia County, with The Mac-Haydn Theatre at the forefront.
The Mac-Haydn Theatre has brought professional theatre to its audiences with more than 300 productions, and has furthered the careers of close to 1,000 talented performers, including Monica M. Wemitt, one of the theatre's first apprentices, who last toured in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"; Joe Howard, also formerly of Chatham, and a star of the TV show "MathNet"; Nathan Lane, who won the Tony Awards on Broadway for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "The Producers"; and David Carpenter Beditz, MHT's leading comedy actor for many years, and recently in the national tour of "Titanic." Many other performers have gone on to national tours, Broadway, and TV.
The Mac-Haydn Theatre has made a significant contribution to people of all ages in its community for a number of years, and has touched the lives of thousands of people. It is proud to be recognized for support by the New York State Council on the Arts and by its many founders, subscribers, and general audiences.
The Mac-Haydn Theatre is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media