Porthouse Theatre Celebrates 50 Years in Cuyahoga Valley

Eric van Baars as Harold Hill at Porthouse Theatre [courtesy: Porthouse Theatre]
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While Blossom Music Center is in fact a center of music every summer in Northeast Ohio, it shares the same grounds with a center of summer theater.  

Porthouse Theatre, as it's known now, also shares the same anniversary as Blossom and celebrates its 50th season of musical theater in the Cuyahoga Valley this summer.

[courtesy: Porthouse Theatre]

It began in 1968, when Kent State University and the Cleveland Orchestra's parent organization, the Musical Arts Association, partnered to create a theater on KSU-owned land located on the same grounds as the orchestra's new summer home, Blossom.

Cyril and Roberta Porthouse [courtesy: Porthouse Theatre]

"Thanks to a lead gift by Cyril and Roberta Porthouse, seed money was put in to develop the Blossom Theater Program," said executive producer Eric van Baars. "Years later it would be remarketed and renamed Porthouse in their honor."

Porthouse is a pastoral location on the grounds of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

[courtesy: Porthouse Theatre]

"It's a sweeping-vista place out there right near Blossom. As you go into the main gate off Steels Corners Road into Blossom just hang a right and there we are," he said.

Porthouse co-founders were KSU theater professors Louis Erdmann and William Zucchero.

Dr. William Zucchero and Dr. Louis Erdmann [courtesy: Porthouse Theatre]

"They had the idea to continue Porthouse as part of a continuation of the school season.  So in its earlier years, performances of Blossom Theater (aka Porthouse) were presented on the Kent campus.  Their vision was also to have a professional company that could tour, and ultimately that company settled into the venue that is Porthouse," van Baars said.

Eric van Baars in "The Music Man" [courtesy: Porthouse Theatre]

Today van Baars runs the summer company with a pair of his longtime Porthouse colleagues, artistic director Terri Kent and production manager Karl Erdmann, Louis Erdmann's son, making for a family atmosphere.

"Terri Kent says every night in her curtain-speech address to the audience that, 'we are a family and as the audience you complete our family.'  We want all of our patrons, everyone who comes to Porthouse to feel that they are part of that intimate family environment," he said.

[courtesy: Porthouse Theatre]

Porthouse Theatre concludes its 50th anniversary season this weekend with the final performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma."



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