A Brief History of Village Playhouse
The company began in 1978 as The Village Playhouse of Wauwatosa (VPW), when a small group of friends banded together to produce Showboat. This first production was staged at Wauwatosa West High School. Over the next few years, the group produced several shows at Hawthorne Junior High, after which they moved into a more permanent home at Plank Road School. Unfortunately, in 1998 Plank Road School was demolished, forcing the company to find new spaces to rehearse and perform.
For the next fifteen years the company was a “homeless” theatre, performing in a variety of different venues – including other theaters, school auditoriums, churches and art gallery spaces – throughout the Milwaukee area. Most rehearsals were held in a Wauwatosa church basement with costumes, props and sets housed in rented storage space in West Allis. In addition to its own productions, the VPW also collaborated with other area theatres during this time, including co-productions of Beauty and the Beast with the West Allis Players and Our Town with the Brookfield Players.
In 2013, a member of the company decided that the VPW needed a permanent home. He purchased an old funeral home in West Allis and transformed it into Inspiration Studios, an art gallery and performance space. Since the theatre’s permanent home was no longer in Wauwatosa the decision was made to update its name to just “Village Playhouse”
Village Playhouse produces between five and eight shows each season as the resident theatre company at Inspiration Studios. This includes a variety of full-length productions plus the Original One Act Festival each June (the longest running festival of its kind in the state!). Village Playhouse is also the only theatre company in the Greater Milwaukee Area that regularly participates in AACTFest, a biannual community theatre festival. The company has sent a production to the Wisconsin State festival (WACTFest) every cycle since 1985 and advanced to the Region III festival three times.
Since its first production in 1978, Village Playhouse has been a place for those interested in theatre to come together and find new ways to express themselves. The company strives to be an open and inclusive environment for all who wish to grow through theatre, with the aim of producing a wide variety of plays that reflect the multitude of voices that are present in its hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
During these uncertain times, Village Playhouse is continuing to move forward. Like many other performing arts organizations, it was hit hard by COVID-19 and had to cancel multiple productions. Despite these setbacks, everyone involved with Village Playhouse is working hard to make sure the 2020 – 2021 season is full of quality theatre. Using a combination of live and virtual productions, the show will go on.