When all the World Becomes a Stage

The origins of Theater in the Open were not rooted in performing outdoors. In fact, some thought it a wildly ambitious undertaking, with too many variables and production challenges. Yet as the organization grew and developed, a logical progression deeply rooted outdoor performance into who we are. Working outdoors offers a freedom, a creative latitude and a proximity to the audience that is foundational to the work we produce. Nature and art are intertwined, offering a new dimension to the audience experience and reinforcing our guiding principle of producing theater that is open to all. 

Since our founding in 1979, we have seen many changes. But our mission to engage, to teach and to celebrate art and nature holds steady. 


Anna (Clopton) Smulowitz launches the Newburyport Children’s Theater as a theater and arts education program. For its first season, African Tales and The Little Match Girl are produced with Theresa Linnihan directing.


Anna Smulowitz writes and stages Terezin, Children of the Holocaust, for the theater — Terezin has gone on to win several awards and is still performed today.


A core “Company” is formed; weekend performances of Alice Through the Looking Glass are staged at Maudslay State Park; Summer Arts Workshop and the First Annual Arts Festival are held at Maudslay; the first performance of Maudslay is Haunted is staged, directed by Paul Wann. Theresa Linnihan is named “artist in residence” at Maudslay State Park and The Gatekeeper’s House becomes headquarters.


The Newburyport Children’s Theater is renamed The Children’s Theater in Residence at Maudslay State Park.


The first holiday show at the new Firehouse Center for the Arts is performed; that annual tradition continues to this day.


The Theater conducts its first Children’s Theater European tour.


The organization officially becomes Theater in the Open and begins reaching out to a more mature audience with productions like Peter Barnes’ Red Noses, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.


Theater in the Open receives the Newburyport Mayor’s Art Award for its body of work, twenty years in Newburyport well recognized.


Maudslay is Haunted brings over 2000 patrons to Maudslay State Park.


Edward Speck is named Artistic Director and begins leading the Company in new directions. Speck introduces a TITO brand of pantomime based on the classic British tradition, increases reach to new audiences and builds a culture of collaboration among other area artists.


Kelly Shea Knowles takes on the role of Executive Director helping to professionalize operations, deepen community ties, build arts advocacy initiatives and add educational programming.


Summer Arts Workshop expands to two campuses in order to meet increased demand for space and a long-term partnership with nearby Arrowhead Farm is launched.


Named Curators of the Gatekeeper’s House at Maudslay State Park, ensuring that the property will remain the group’s headquarters for the next 20 years. Speck introduces the first summer of repertory theater, staging both Antigone and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, culminating in a theater festival — four shows in two days, all free — attended by over 600 people. 


Theater in the Open receives the Asset Builder Award from Newburyport Youth Services, in recognition of creating positive youth assets in the City of Newburyport.


Theater in the Open celebrates its 40th Anniversary Season with an ambitious slate of programming, including A Peter Pan Panto, The Tempest, and Lost Songs. The Theatre also continued partnerships with the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival and Historic New England, as well as creating new partnerships with the Huntington Theatre Company. Edward Speck celebrates his tenth year as Artistic Director.