Church Hill Theatre: Then and Now
Church Hill Theatre is located in Church Hill, Maryland in Queen Anne's County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Situated in a sleepy rural town halfway between the county seat of Centreville and historic Chestertown in nearby Kent County, the theatre is a mecca for the performing arts. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of the Queen Anne's County Historic Sites Consortium, the theatre is also dedicated to the historic preservation and enhancement of a main-street architectural treasure. For over 30 years this all volunteer organization has been providing the mid-shore area with year round quality performances of live theatre and music, educational opportunities in the dramatic arts and a summer drama camp for children.
The Theatre is housed in an art deco style building with a 75 year history of providing a meeting and entertainment venue for the public. Originally constructed by Elwood F. Coleman of Crumpton, MD. to be the Church Hill Community Building, it was the site of card parties, suppers, dances, graduations, town meetings and even silent films complete with pianist from 1929 until 1935. The building housed the Town Office as well as a barbershop and dentist office. In 1935, movie theatre equipment was installed which initiated, for the theatre, a 45 year history as a movie house. Steamboat Round the Bend starring Will Rogers was the first of thousands of first run films shown at the Church Hill Theatre. The location of the town made it an ideal rendezvous for friends and families all over the area to meet for an afternoon or evening of the silver screen. Thirsty theatre goers would meet at Doc Sterling's Pharmacy for an ice cream soda before the show, often having ridden their bicycles or walked the 10 miles from the nearby larger towns. Church Hill Theatre was a miniature movie palace and became known as "Showcase of the Eastern Shore".
The 1970s came and went and so did the small-town movie house.. Malls and shopping centers housing multi-screen cinemas became the norm. Church Hill Theatre was not immune from the march of progress. In 1983 a group of concerned and historically minded people began a quest to acquire the Theatre from the Town of Church Hill with the intent of restoring the building and starting a community theatre. Known as the Friends of Church Hill Preservation, Inc., this dedicated group presented for the '84-'85 premier season the first Cultural Entertainment Series which featured films, benefit events, music concerts, and live theatre featuring a troupe from Easton, MD.
Thirty years later and once again known as The Church Hill Theatre, the tradition of being a community performing arts center continues. The years have seen continued improvements to the facility itself with the latest additions being a handicapped-accessible restroom and new and improved concessions and lobby area. Plans are underway to refurbish the building further for state of the art fire-safety, electrical, lighting, and sound equipment. These improvements will enhance the facilities usefulness as a public meeting space.
Programming at the Theatre is exciting and varied, something for everyone! An amazing contingent of roughly 225 volunteers assure the day to day operations, management and performance schedule of the theatre. Live dramatic performances can be enjoyed 9 months out of the year at Church Hill Theatre. 76 plays have been produced and presented at Church Hill Theatre since 1988. Children's programming includes a 6 week dramatic arts camp, weekend workshops in acting , magic shows, outreach programs in local schools and young peoples theatre. Priding itself on showcasing local talent, the theatre holds play readings of original works by area playwrights and can boast the production of a handful of original plays. Local and regional musical talent has also appeared on stage over the years. From Blue-grass to Barbershop to the finest Jazz talents in the area, music at Church Hill Theatre is always a special occasion.
Church Hill Theatre welcomes each and everyone who passes through its doors. So when you are in the area, stop by and experience the magic of live community theatre or take part in a workshop or hold a meeting here. The art deco charm and enthusiastic volunteers create a space that is truly the Showcase of the Eastern Shore.
As you are all aware, The Theatre is temporarily closed and the 2020 season has been interrupted because of the shutdown, and it is not clear when the ban on public gatherings will be lifted. The Green Room Gang is also cancelled for this season, although we are offering a Virtual mini-camp workshop the week of July 6-10. The End of Year Annual Report(s) is forthcoming.
We look forward to being together again! Stay safe and healthy!