Over the years, Greenwich has been home to several different community theater groups. Unlike other nearby communities, however, there is no facility available for these live performances. The groups have had to "make do" as best they can.
As far as I could determine, the earliest group was The Studio Workshop Players. They were formed in 1930 by Ms. Mary Hill Brown and Mrs. Elizabeth Vaughan. The troupe would perform at Mrs. Brown's residence. People would join for $1.50 a year, and they would get 2 tickets per performance. Most of the members were wealthy, although several teachers eventually joined. According to its founders, they didn't intentionally set out to exclude anyone; they just couldn't accommodate a lot of people.
The plays would run Thursday, Friday and Saturday - sometimes over 2 or 3 weekends. They put on musicals as well as dramas. The renowned Quinto Manganini played the flute and helped with musical scores. Singer Danny O'Connor came on several occasions. Many of the plays were Irish, requiring actors who could speak with a brogue. Some plays were set outdoors, starting at 8:30 pm as it got dark. Lights on the outside of the house were used as spotlights. The audience brought their own chairs and cushions to sit on. Performances were held at the house in Cassidy Park off Lake Avenue.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Brown was renting the house, and after about 4-years, the original owners returned to Greenwich and wanted their house back. This left The Studio Workshop Players (and Mrs. Brown) without a home. She ended up renting a barn on the corner of Old Church Road. The living quarters were upstairs. A stage had to be built downstairs, and one room was used for the "stage", while an adjacent room was used to seat the audience. It could seat over 150 people. Since there was no budget, they had to use living room furniture for the set! You had to know someone to get a ticket since there wasn't enough space to accommodate the public. Sometimes they would use a "night club" arrangement using card tables. They allowed people to bring their own food and liquor. In this respect, it could be considered a type of "Cabaret Theater". They began to get requests from Veteran's homes, schools and churches. Unfortunately, the barn burned to the ground around 1940. So they rented the Masonic Temple on Havemeyer Place until 1942.
Then World War II broke out, and the theater group lost most of its male members. The Studio Workshop Theater disbanded and sold its equipment to a professional theater group called The Starlight Theater. This group played at the Masonic Temple for a year, then moved to to the site which eventually became the home of Greenwich Cinema on Greenwich Avenue. They put on plays they hoped would eventually be performed on Broadway. This will be the subject of a future blog.
SOURCE: The Studio Workshop Players; Hale, H.: Oral History Project, 1975..