***Playhouse founders-Paul Lookingup.jpg

Paul Crabtree

Mary Crabtree arrived in Crossville with husband, Paul, and family in tow. 

They planned to spend time visiting family and Paul would write a book while the show-biz couple decided their next move. Paul, an actor, director and writer, had been writing for the Loretta Young Show. Mary was an accomplished actress, as well. 

But their family sabbatical was interrupted when the community came to Paul and asked him to stage a show for the local youths. Paul Crabtree’s The Perils of Pinocchio opened in December 1963 with about 200 local children in the cast.

The town was hooked. They wanted to have more opportunities for theater and for their children to perform and be involved. They asked Paul Crabtree what needed to be done to have more such productions. Paul laughingly replied, “Well, you’d have to build me a theater.” 

A year later, the Cumberland County Playhouse opened.

Today, the Playhouse welcomes more than 100,000 people each year to a variety of live theater performances. The Tennessee Arts Commission considers the Playhouse a Major Cultural Institution — one of 26 in the state and the only one in a rural community.

The education program offers professional instruction in acting, singing and dancing, and the school matinee and Theater for Young Audience program inspires a new generation of Playhouse enthusiasts each year. 

As the Cumberland County Playhouse prepares for its 55th season, it will pause and honor the Crabtrees and other families who helped bring the dream of a professional theater in the community to fruition. 

“What was meant to be a temporary visit to see family turned into a passion for theater that changed a community and impacted the lives of the thousands who visit, perform and work at the Playhouse each year,” said Christie Dolinich, Playhouse development director. 

The Cumberland County Playhouse Founders’ Luncheon will be Nov. 16 at 11 a.m. at the Crossville Shooting Sports Park Event Center and Conference Room at 772 Albert Frye Rd. Willow Catering will provide the lunch.

Tickets are $50 per person and limited to the first 175 reservations. 

RSVP by email to development@ccplayhouse.com or call 931-484-5000 ext. 117.

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