Oyster Mill Playhouse -- Over 40 Years of Community Theatre
Oyster Mill Playhouse is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, community theatre located in East Pennsboro Township, Camp Hill, PA. Oyster Mill Playhouse, originally known as Metropolitan Repertory Company, Inc. (Met Rep), is entirely managed by volunteers. Sharon Hillegas, Michael Hillegas, Anita Shultz, Gary Bloom and Dorothy Kovalchik founded our volunteer organization in 1976 and it was incorporated in 1978.
Initially, we performed where we could find a space and an audience. Beginning in 1978, we rented the Fellowship Hall in the Faith United Church of Christ in New Cumberland for nearly all of our productions. We expanded the existing Fellowship Hall stage, hung lighting instruments and then we were off and running.
The first show performed at the Church was Summertree, which was followed by Barefoot In The Park, Under the Yum Yum Tree and The Fantasticks. That season, and for several ensuing seasons, the fare was dinner theatre. Members of the group planned, cooked, served, cleaned up and then took their places onstage to perform. The years at the Church highlighted new shows, old shows, controversial shows and classic shows. Met Rep was the first area community theatre to perform the play Whose Life Is It Anyway? Many blockbuster musicals were reformatted and successfully presented on the smaller stage. Oklahoma!, Fiddler on the Roof, Anything Goes, Damn Yankees, 1776, and The Pajama Game were among the many musicals received with critical acclaim.
After ten years at the Church, the Met Rep Board of Directors found and purchased the Oyster Mill, which was being used to store plumbing supplies. Originally a grist mill (Eyster Mill), the building had also been used as a general store and a dance hall. After an intense fundraising, building, and remodeling project in November of 1988, we opened the 1988-1989 Season with Barefoot In The Park in our new home, the Oyster Mill Playhouse. Volunteers were even still spreading material in the parking lot four hours before we opened the doors.
Met Rep volunteers soon added a set shop to the playhouse. In 1996, a second story was added to the building as a part of a reconstruction effort required to fix damage caused by the January 1996 flood. The second story added fly space over the stage, an office, dressing rooms and both rehearsal and storage space to the small theater. A lighting and sound booth were also added to the side of the building. These changes were expensive but necessary and we are still paying for them.
After the first few seasons at the Playhouse, we learned that our patrons were confused. They seemed to think that Met Rep and Oyster Mill Playhouse were two different organizations. As a result, the Board of Directors decided to do business as Oyster Mill Playhouse and discontinue using the name Met Rep in advertising copy and press releases. Officially, however, we are the Metropolitan Repertory Company, Inc., a volunteer group that has operated successfully for 40 consecutive years. In 2016, we celebrated our 40th anniversary of providing quality, live theatre in Central Pennsylvania.
One final note... On November 11th, 2023 we will be celebrating our 35th anniversary performing at Oyster Mill Playhouse!