Summer is just around the corner, which means that summer theater is too. To help celebrate this season of sunshine, rising temperatures, barbecues and outdoor fun, we’re starting “Behind the Curtain,” a series of profiles introducing you to the many unique (and even historic) summer theaters around New Hampshire.
For our latest profile, check out Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith. The Playhouse aims to provide a fun and challenging theatrical environment for all Lakes Region locals and visitors in both performance-based and educational arenas. Whether your interest is to be onstage, behind-the-scenes or in the audience, The Winnipesaukee Playhouse has something for you. We reached out to Patron and Company Services Director Lesley Pankhurst to learn all about their mission to advance the art form of theater through work that inspires, engages and entertains the people of their community and beyond.
Tell us about the history of your theater.
Lesley Pankhurst: “The Winnipesaukee Playhouse was founded in 2004 and started in a small trip mall in Weirs Beach. At the time we could seat less than 100 people and had no room for storage, building, rehearsing, etc. After a big fundraising effort, we completed construction in 2013 of a state-of-the-art theatre on 11 acres that formerly housed the Annalee Doll Company in Meredith. We have multiple buildings for storage and construction, housing of our staff members, and a covered bridge and nature walk.”
What makes your venue special or different?
Lesley: “We offer award-winning professional theater, community theater, and education department productions. The three wings of the Playhouse are very different but support each other. For example, it allows students in the Education Department the opportunity to work with professional directors and designers. Our campus also sets us apart as most theaters don’t have the luxury of space that we have on our campus.”
What’s the story behind the name of your theater?
Lesley: “We are named for the lake we are near!”
What are you best known for?
Lesley: “We are best known for balancing the three branches of the organization and our top-quality production values. We are very lucky that really talented actors, designers, directors, etc., all really enjoy working here and return to us year after year.”
Tell us about the most memorable play you’ve done.
Lesley: “Prior to the pandemic, we were producing upwards of 18 productions across the three branches each year. With so many productions it’s hard to choose just one!”
Tell us about what you have been up to this season. Do you have anything exciting planned for 2021?
Lesley: “We managed to perform three professional productions in 2020 – two on our newly renovated outdoor amphitheatre and one inside our theater. For 2021, we have a season of seven professional shows, three of which will be performed in the amphitheater. Then we will produce two Education Department shows and one community theater show.”
What keeps you passionate about doing what you do?
Lesley: “We love working with talented, kind individuals who join us from all over the country.”
How can people best support you right now?
Lesley: “Purchase tickets to our 2021 season!”