Bellport's Gateway Playhouse Keeps Rolling Along

Summer theater was a prolific form of entertainment on Long Island in the 1950's and 60's.Converted barns in Northport, Greenport and Bellport became theaters, while star packages performed under a circus-like canvas tent at the Westbury Music Fair.Meanwhile, opulent mountings of Broadway musicals were presented at the Jones Beach MarineTheater on ZachsBay .

Nowadays the barns in Northport and Greenport are gone and both JonesBeach and Westbury have become concert venues.Only the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport remains and is so popular that local residents know better than to drive along
South Country Road
at certain hours lest they become entangled in traffic either entering or exiting the theater.


The Gateway Playhouse is located on the site of the former Mott Estate on the eastern-most tip of Bellport , New York .Rumors are rife about the ghost of Lucretia Mott still haunting one of the buildings on the premises but she seems to be benign and hasn't caused any significant problems in the past few decades.

Established in 1941, the Gateway began in the tradition of those old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films where someone suggests, "Let's put on a show!" and a terrific production is presented by a group of talented teens.In the case of the Gateway, the kids were Sally, Ruth and David Pomeran who began by presenting skits and puppet shows to entertain guestsin the estate's dining room.Eventually they put on Shakespearean productions in a barn that still stands on the Gateway's well-tended grounds.Sally, Ruth and David were the children of Libby and Harry Pomeran and Harry became the producer of the Gateway's earliest seasons; remaining in that position until 1973.

The first performances were given under the most primitive conditions in a barn that still smelled like a barn but the Gateway became a popular attraction with drew audiences from Bellport Village and the surrounding communities.Eventually Shakespeare was abandoned and contemporary fare of the day like A View From the Bridge,A Streetcar Named Desire and Summer and Smoke were given marvelous productions on the tiny stage.Eventually scaled-down versions of Flower Drum Song and Redhead found their ways into Gateway's schedule.

In 1962 the Gateway opened a new 500 seat theater.It stands adjacent to the barn and shares the same lobby.The new theater is air conditioned and retains the barn-like facade of the original ediface.This is the Main Stage that is still in use today.

Along with the new theater came a shifting in the format took place.Musicals such as Gypsy and Bye Bye Birdie were given two week runs while serious plays like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Tchin-Tchin played single week engagements throughout the seasons.

"The last non-musical we presented here was Neil Simon's Laughter on the 34th Floor"commented the Gateway's current producerm Paul Allan.Allan is the latest member of the Pomeran clan to hold the reins of the family business.The son of Ruth (Pomeran) and Stanley Allen, Paul is a 1978graduate of BellportHigh School, where he designed the lighting and special effects for such drama club productions as Peter Pan, My Sister Eileen and The Wizard of Oz.He comes from a theatrical family and is no stranger to the hard work and discipline required for the presentation of live plays and musicals.

Chatting outdoors in a tent that theater-goers enjoy during intermissions at Gateway productions, Allen spoke candidly about the family business and the rigors of producing quality productions for today's audiences.He's been in this position since 1980 when he and his sister Robin produced a season of musicals consisting of Godspell, Dracula, Cabaretand Grease."It was interesting.It went well.We were young.I was just 20 and Robin and I hada lot of challenges running the business at such a young age. However, the season was successful and we were both proud of that."

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Joe Panarello is one of those people who have most certainly been born with theater in their blood. As an actor, Joe has played such varied roles as Harry Roat in Frederick Knott's Wait Until Dark, Jimmy Smith in No, No Nanette and Lazer Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof a vehicle he's performed in several times and designed the sets for on one occasion. He's also directed productions of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park and Henrich Ibsen's Peer Gynt. Joe is a respected author and although his latest work, The Authoritative History of Corduroy won't be published until this summer, it is already being translated into several different languages by a group of polyglot nuns in Tormento, Italy.. The proceeds from their labors will go to the restoration of the nearby Cathedral of Gorgonzola.