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Ogunquit Playhouse Receives 'National Level of Significance' with the National Register of Historic Places

The Ogunquit Playhouse has announced that as the result of several years of research, the Ogunquit Playhouse's listing in the National Register of Historic Places was raised to the "National Level of Significance" in consideration of the significant contributions made by its founder Walter J. Hartwig and the Playhouse to Performing Arts Education throughout the nation. The Ogunquit Playhouse was deemed, and has consistently lived up to, its reputation as "America's Foremost Summer Theatre" in large part because of its influence on American theater and all those who participate in it. According to Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., Director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission this new designation indicates that the property has been documented, evaluated, and considered worthy of preservation and protection as part of the nation's cultural heritage. Upon receiving the news from Mr. Shettleworth's office, Executive Artistic Director, Bradford T. Kenney stated "Ogunquit Playhouse is thrilled and honored to be recognized by the federal government, not only as an artistic landmark for almost a century of theatrical productions, but also as a National historic site with impact on America's architectural and cultural fabric. This is a wonderful designation as the entire Playhouse family and foundation continues our stewardship of one of America's theatrical jewels."

As the new scholarship shows, the Ogunquit Playhouse is an enduring and outstanding example of a popular, and often ephemeral, component of American cultural history: the summer theatre. Hartwig, who was a figure prominent in the theater world, and in the Little Theatre Movement in particular, founded the Ogunquit Playhouse in 1933. In so doing he created a pioneering and long-lived summer theater. The school attached to it, The Manhattan Theatre Colony, trained generations of theater professionals while the Playhouse itself anchored the summer circuit in the Northeast. In contrast to other summer theaters of the era, it was housed within a building explicitly designed as a theater and has remained relatively unchanged since its original construction. Together, all of these features have made the Ogunquit Playhouse a unique cultural force in the history of the United States.

The Ogunquit Playhouse was first listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1995 in recognition of its local historic significance within the context of performing arts and community planning and development. Since that time, the Ogunquit Playhouse engaged historian Dr. Kathryn Edney, Assistant Professor of History, World Languages and Cultural Heritage at Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts to do extensive research on the history of the Playhouse, in order to submit a case to the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places that the Ogunquit Playhouse's impact on the theatre community reached far beyond its local area. Dr. Edney's research enabled the property to be evaluated in a broader context and proved the importance of the Ogunquit Playhouse and its contributions to American theater as a whole.

As a result it was determined that the Ogunquit Playhouse has directly and indirectly influenced countless professionals in the world of entertainment from, and through, actors-such as Lee Remick-to playwrights-such as Joanna H. Kraus- to set designers-such Charles Elson. The research revealed that Mr. Hartwig had an important, influential and unique role within both Broadway and Summer Theater circles and through the Manhattan Theatre Colony, the educational wing of the Ogunquit Playhouse which he founded. The school had a unique rigorous performing arts curriculum during the summer seasons under Hartwig and continued for many years after under John Lane's leadership. Mr. Hartwig is best known for founding the "Little Theater Tournament" in the 1920s in New York City and was a tireless advocate for bringing first class theatre to small towns throughout the U.S. Through his work, he established long-term influence over hundreds of Little Theatres, the forerunner of American Summer Stock, across the country.

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