After 50 years of entertaining audiences, Porthouse Theatre is a Northeast Ohio arts landmark.
Founded in 1968, Porthouse Theatre is Northeast Ohio’s premiere professional summer outdoor theatre. Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary season and under the guidance of Producing Artistic Director Terri Kent and Executive Producer Eric van Baars, Porthouse is part of the Kent/Blossom Arts partnership and is dedicated to providing unique training opportunities for actors, designers, technicians and managers in the context of a professional producing theatre. Through the Kent/Blossom Theatre program, Kent State University envisioned an education program, national in scope, that would provide professional-level training to student theatre artists and simultaneously provide high caliber cultural experiences for local audiences.
For more than four decades, students and professionals from across the country have gathered at Porthouse, producing more than 3,000 performances of over 175 works and entertaining nearly 400,000 patrons. Since its establishment, Porthouse has produced a variety of plays and musicals ranging from Death of a Salesman, Dames at Sea, and Annie Get Your Gun to The Importance of Being Earnest, Chicago and Fiddler on the Roof. Porthouse Theatre is the recipient of many awards for excellence in theatre, including 2013 Cleveland Critics Circle Awards for achievement in directing, choreography, acting, sound design, and musical direction.
In 1969, under the direction of founders William H. Zucchero and Louis O. Erdmann, Porthouse Theatre formally debuted as an Elizabethan-style band of players that strolled the grounds of the newly constructed Blossom Music Center during intermissions of Cleveland Orchestra Concerts.
In 1970, the theatre company offered its first season of full-length productions. Performances were held in a tent in the parking lot of the construction site that would become Porthouse Theatre. Thanks to major challenge gifts from Cyril and Roberta Porthouse and Gerald and Victoria Read, the vision of Porthouse Theatre became a reality in 1971, when the 450-seat performance facility and the adjacent Read Pavilion were dedicated. In 1980, neighbors James and Betty Hudkins donated their 95 acre adjoining farm to Kent State, allowing the expansion of Porthouse Theatre to its present 127 acres.
In 2001, due to the generosity of Gerald and Victoria Read and family, The Victoria Anne and Carlton Forrest Thornbury Entertainment Pavilion was added. Through a generous contribution from the Hackett Family Foundation, The Hackett Family Pavilion was added in 2011. New ceiling fans were installed in the theatre in 2013 to ensure the comfort of patrons during performances.
Porthouse reached its milestone 50th Anniversary in 2018 and simultaneously completed a $1 million capital campaign that provided expanded facilities and made Porthouse accessible for generations to come. With a generous lead donation of $250,000 from the Gregory Hackett Family Foundation, the campaign created a new box office building, a sign wall, expanded restroom facilities, a new drainage system, and an expanded and improved parking area.
Porthouse's Past Seasons
Porthouse has provided professional theatrical entertainment for Northeast Ohio audiences for more than 50 years.