Highlands Playhouse, one of the country’s oldest professional summer stock theaters, is the legacy of Highlands’s early forward-thinking families. The first troupe, all amateurs, began using the Highlands School auditorium in the mid-1930s. “Even to this day,” writes historian Randolph Shaffner, “the acoustics are nearly perfect.” They formally organized in the late 1930s as the Highlands Little Theatre, which was ultimately renamed Highlands Playhouse. The first big production was the Broadway comedy “Dulcy.” Reserved seats cost 50¢. Bleacher seats were 35¢. And it was a sell out crowd. Over the years, the local ensemble began to bring in professionals and mounted sophisticated plays by important authors. Highlands Playhouse has its share of distinguished alumni. Collin Wilcox, a regular on the local stage, went on to play opposite Gregory Peck in the film “To Kill A Mockingbird,” as Mayella.
Today, Playhouse Theatre, with 2-3 plays each summer, is still a springboard for local drama students to hone their skills alongside professional mentors. For children, the Playhouse Theater Summer Camp offers fun, hands-on exposure to the magical experience of writing and performing a play. And off-season, the performance space becomes a movie theatre for first-run films. Highlands Playhouse will soon have a new home − joining other local cultural organizations in the new Performing Arts Center. The curtain is expected to go up in 2022 on our 84th year.