New Antrim Playhouse opens in Tappan

Antrim Playhouse was packed with over 500 visitors last Sunday, as the venue celebrated a return to form. Complete with tours of the building, the smooth tunes of a Maureen’s Jazz Cellar band, and speeches from the Antrim Players board, the bustling event marked the beginning of a new chapter for Antrim Playhouse, the longest running theatre in Rockland County.

The Antrim Players’ journey began in 1936, when it was founded in the basement of the Airmont School in Suffern, New York. After moving to a community center on Spook Rock Road four years later, the playhouse enjoyed 82 years’ worth of performances in the quiet, secluded space of the woods.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit the theatre hard, leading the board to reconsider how to keep the playhouse going. It was then that a Christian church called out of the blue to inquire about buying the building in 2022. The Antrim Players happily accepted.

“In 2022 we did our last show—the musical ‘Falsettos,’” recalled Jim Guarasci, President of the New Antrim Playhouse and a member of the theatre since 2004. “We closed in April and we sold the theatre on July fourth weekend. It’s taken close to two years to get this new location up and running.”

In the last two years, members of the Antrim Players have undergone a rigorous process to get the new Antrim Playhouse—located in Tappan’s historic Manse Barn, rented through the town’s First Reformed Church, and shared with the organization Music for Life—up and running. Between sorting decades’ worth of props and dealing with a small fire in their new space only two weeks after signing the lease on their new spot, the Antrim Players have put countless hours into transforming this new location into a space fit for the magic of live theatre.

Antrim’s Next Steps

Though the new Antrim Playhouse just celebrated its inaugural event, the theatre’s official 2024-2025 season opener will take place in mid-September with the world premiere of the original musical “Hang On,” written by Rick Apicella and directed by Alison Costello. The theatre will also host pop-up events this summer, including performances by mentalist Kent Axell, a Frank Sinatra tribute band, and a magic show for children.

Antrim Artistic Director Dana Duff, who first became involved with the theatre 20 years ago, envisions the new Antrim Playhouse as a safe space for the community, where people of all kinds can create various artwork through different classes and performance opportunities.

“My vision for (Antrim) is really to be a place that’s rooted in theatre, but also has a variety of different artforms,” explained Duff. “We have a strong focus on mental health, so we’re going to have drama and music therapy programs that will help strengthen families…Basically, I want a safe, creative, warm house where people feel invested, empowered, and encouraged.”

Duff also emphasized her desire for the new Antrim Playhouse to place a focus on original works, where writers and actors can work on their own material. She envisions each season including one original play, one classic, a musical, a comedy, and a drama, as well as pop-up events such as live music and readings.

The 2024-2025 season’s mainstage shows include Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” (directed by Melinda Pinto), Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias” (directed by Dana Duff), Lee Hall and Elton John’s “Bill Elliot” (directed by Cal Chiang), and Joe Penhall’s “Blue Orange” (directed by Michael Edan). The new Antrim Playhouse board includes Jim Guarasci, Doreen DiBenedetto, Dana Duff, Seth Kaplan, Tom Labrix, Edward Van Saders, Laurel Salmon, and Allan Seward.

Above all, Duff hopes for this next chapter in Antrim Playhouse’s history to be rooted in service to the community.

“I think (this theatre) is important because there’s no other place like it in one spot,” said Duff. “There are so many beautiful, great organizations in Rockland, but I really wanted to see where the gaps were. I think Tappan is such a family-oriented, historic town, and it was waiting for something…This is a place where everyone can feel like they belong.”


Antrim President Jim Guarasci says a few words at inaugural event; photo credit Sierra Lidén
Maureen’s Jazz Cellar quartet, featuring Frankie Coolanato (drums), Etienne Stadwijk (piano), Andrew Beals (sax), and Jim Donica (bass); photo credit Sierra Lidén
New Antrim costume closet; photo credit Sierra Lidén
Antrim Playhouse decor; photo credit Sierra Lidén

You must be logged in to post a comment Login