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Theatre Three

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Main Streets all across our great nation are home to local theatres with their sparkling neon lights inviting us in to enjoy the enchantment of musicals, comedies and dramas. However last March, due to an unprecedented pandemic that forced the entire world to shut down, theatres suddenly fell into darkness, becoming specters of their former selves. But recently one by one those extinguished lights were turned back on once more illuminating Main Streets as they proudly announce the resurrection of live theatre.

Theatre Three, housed in that distinguished 160-year-old historic building in Port Jefferson, reopened its Mainstage doors on July 16th with the heartwarming fan favorite, The Fantasticks.

Kudos to Jeff Sanzel for celebrating the comeback of live theatre with this much loved classic. We need to escape into an endearing romantic musical right now and Theatre Three delivers. The message of The Fantasticks, that we can all survive and grow, is especially meaningful as we rise once more from a world ravaged by.

This allegorical tale is loosely based on the 1894 play The Romancers (Les Romantiques) by Edmond Rostand. Tom Jones (libretto and lyrics) and Harvey Schmidt (music) created a show that holds the distinction of being the world’s longest running musical having premiered at the Sullivan Street Playhouse off-Broadway on May 3, 1960 accumulating 17,162 performances before it closed on January 13, 2002, after 42 years. A revival opened August 23, 2006 at The Theater Center off-Broadway where it ran through June 4, 2017. 

Simplicity accompanied by theatricality are key elements to The Fantasticks and are exquisitely displayed through the light romance of a girl and the boy next door against a backdrop of minimal set by Randall Parsons with a small platform, two benches, two trunks, streetlight and a piano. Lighting design by Robert Henderson, Jr. helps create the intimacy, the magical moonlight and the reality that comes with the sun. 

Director Jeffrey Sanzel has assembled a versatile cast with actors called upon to not only sing, dance and act but play musical instruments.

Steve McCoy is captivating as the swashbuckling narrator El Gallo who weaves an irresistible spell immersing us in this timeless tale. With the beautifully melodic and pivotal song “Try to Remember,” he entreats us to return to a time of innocence   “When life was slow and oh, so mellow” and if we remember then “follow, follow, follow.” He is the conjurer creating romance, then mischief.

The Mute portrayed by Michelle LaBozzetta provides the only concrete tones to this intentionally abstract show. She is the wall separating the houses; she gracefully throws confetti into the air representing the change of seasons and she passes out props.

Meg Bush as Luisa/The Girl with her operettic soprano in addition to her ability to play both the flute and guitar is unique. Her Luisa personifies innocence. She is the dreamer, the moonstruck girl who pleads, “I am special. Please, God, please, don’t let me be normal.” We can’t help but empathize. Matthew Hoffman as Matthew/The Boy with his resonant tenor adds a depth of emotion to Jone’s lyrics. His seductive saxophone embraces Schmidt’s jazzy score.

Kyle Imperatore as Bellamy/The Girl’s Father and Jeffrey Hoffman, Hucklebee/The Boy’s Father give delightfully comedic performances as their pretense of a feud tricks their children into falling in love. Hoffman is a multi-talented force who smoothly transforms from musical conductor and pianist to Hucklebee and back again. 

The fathers know all too well that the feud must appear to finally come to an end. They enlist El Gallo to “kidnap” Luisa so Matt can be her hero by rescuing her. To assist in staging this first class abduction, El Gallo calls upon The Old Actor (Henry) played by Jeffrey Sanzel and his sidekick, The Man Who Dies (Mortimer) played by Steven Uihlein. Their antics are so much fun the moment they climb out of their costume box.

It is interesting to note that Tom Jones played the role of The Old Actor in the original Off-Broadway production and in the 2006 revival Jones recreated the role in addition to directing as Sanzel is doing in this production.

Chakira Doherty’s costumes help to reinforce the mood from Luisa’s floating dress emphasizing the innocent, dream-like quality to El Gallo’s dashing long black coat. Sari Feldman’s choreography supplies the right touch of theatricality particularly in the frenzied “The Abduction Ballet” and the frenetic “Round and Round.”

Theatre Three’s production of The Fantasticks is charming and entertaining with catchy songs that you leave the theatre singing.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents The Fantasticks on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Aug. 15. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

Excitement was in the air as Theatre Three celebrated its reopening on July 10 with The Adventures of Peter Rabbit. Addressing the audience, director Jeffrey Sanzel said, “This is our very first theater performance since March 15 of last year. This is also our favorite children’s show of all time and I know you’re going to like it.” 

Well, that was an understatement.

For the next hour and 20 minutes the young theatergoers were treated to the mischievous adventures of Peter Rabbit and his cousin Benjamin Bunny … and loved every minute of it. 

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, the original musical is loosely based on one of the best-selling books of all time, The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, and features all of the beloved characters in the story. The eight adult cast members know their target audience well and keep them well entertained. 

Cast:

Peter Rabbit: Eric J. Hughes

Benjamin Bunny: Steven Uihlein

Mrs. Rabbit: Elizabeth Ladd

Flopsy: Meg Bush

Mopsy: Alyssa Montes

Cotton-Tail: Heather Rose Kuhn

Mr. McGregor: Darren Clayton

Mrs. Mcgregor: Linda May

The audience is whisked away to the countryside home of Mrs. Rabbit and her four bunnies who live next to Mr. and Mrs. McGregor. While Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail listen to their mother by staying inside and doing their chores, Peter and Benjamin spend the day sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s garden to satisfy their insatiable appetite for lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and string beans. The many trips to the garden patch eventually wear down the farmer’s patience, resulting in a great chase with a narrow escape.

The show is adorable on so many levels. Like two peas in a pod, Peter and Benjamin produce the most laughs with their antics and Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail spend most of their time looking for their wayward brother. And for some strange reason, the audience will walk away with a craving for bread and milk and blackberries.

The show is also a lesson in ingenuity. Trapdoors on stage become rabbit holes used by Peter and Benjamin to hide. An attempt to reclaim Peter’s socks and shoes and jacket and hat from a scarecrow in the garden turns into a scene from Mission Impossible complete with perilous stunts and spotlights. And when Peter retells the great chase to his family, the entire scene is reenacted in slow motion — a most spectacular feat.

Audience interaction is a big part of the show as the actors spend as much time in the aisles of the theater as on stage. When searching for Peter and Benjamin, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail run around asking the children if they’ve seen them (“They’re right behind you!”).  When Benjamin Bunny tried to jump onto the stage over and over again during last Saturday’s performance, the children called out words of encouragement (“You can do it Benjamin!). He took the stairs. 

With excellent choreography by Nicole Bianco, the musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Doug Quattrock, are catchy and fun, with special mention to “One More Time Around,”  “Run, Peter, Run!” and the hip hop number, “Peter’s Socks.” The final number incorporates all of the songs in a super mega-mix extravaganza.

Best suited for ages 3 to 8, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit is the perfect choice to celebrate Theatre Three’s reopening and the return of live theater. Your kids will love it.

Souvenir bunnies in various colors will be sold before the show and during intermission for $5 (proceeds will help maintain the historic building) and the entire cast is in the lobby after the show for a meet-and-greet.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents The Adventures of Peter Rabbit on Saturdays at 11 a.m. through Aug. 14. Children’s theater continues with A Kooky Spooky Halloween from Oct. 9 to 30 and Barnaby Saves Christmas from Nov. 20 to Dec. 26. All seats are $10. To order, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

From left, Sari Feldman, Jeffrey Hoffman, Meg Bush, Steve McCoy during rehearsal for 'The Fantasticks'. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
Summer lineup includes a mainstage production, comedy festival and children’s theater

By Tara Mae

In theaters all over Long Island, the house lights are dimming and seats are waiting to be filled. 

In Port Jefferson, Theatre Three is officially reopening with its children’s theater musical The Adventures of Peter Rabbit on Saturdays from July 10 to Aug. 14; the annual, albeit abbreviated, Long Island Comedy Festival on July 9 and 10, and a special production of The Fantasticks from July 16 to Aug. 15.

When the pandemic closed the theater’s doors last March, all programming moved online and plans for reopening began. “We spent pretty much every day for a year, talking about what we would do when we reopen: if this happens, we’ll do this, if that happens, we’ll do that. We were trying to wrap our heads around the guidelines,” said Jeffrey Sanzel, Executive Artistic Director. “The vaccine was the big first step, then the shifting capacity. It’s an ongoing process, still in progress.”

A perennial favorite, ‘The Adventures of Peter Rabbit’ returns July 10.

Through its virtual program “Off-Stage/On-Line,” Theatre Three produced theater throughout the lockdown with audiences attending via Zoom. After putting out a call for original short works to be produced as online plays, Sanzel received approximately 1600 submissions. The last play debuted on June 20. Still available through the theater’s YouTube page, the plays range from 5 to 22 minutes and feature 85 works, 76 playwrights, and 156 actors. 

As it invites the public back in, Theatre Three is invoking popular productions to engage its audiences. The Adventures of Peter Rabbit was chosen to relaunch the children’s theater because of its familiarity. 

“We do it every year,” said Sanzel. “We thought it would be a great show to reopen the children’s theater, it’s very popular and great for all ages.” All of the theater’s children’s plays are written in-house, according to Sanzel. “I write the book and frequently the lyrics. I also work with other composers.” 

Theatre Three’s first in-person special event will be the Long Island Comedy Festival, now in its 15th year. Comedian Paul Anthony, founder and director of the festival, started it at Theatre Three. It has since expanded across Long Island. 

“Theatre Three is one of the most iconic theaters on Long Island. We perform at pretty much every theater on Long Island, but Theatre Three, which was originally built as a vaudeville house, has an incredible history and all the elements you could ever want from the theater. Comedians always compliment the acoustics; there is something about the acoustics and feel of the theater, you feel like you’re in Manhattan. On top of that, I have never worked with a more supportive group of people,” said Anthony. 

Comedian Paul Anthony hosts the 15th annual Long Island Comedy Festival on July 9 and 10

This year, the theater is having a condensed version of the festival. “We normally present two weekends of the Festival —one at the beginning of the summer and one at the end,” said Sanzel. “We thought it would be a fun, upbeat way of welcoming people back to the theatre.”

For the theater’s first live mainstage production in approximately 16 months, Sanzel chose to present The Fantasticks. The longest running musical, it played for 42 years off-Broadway and is an allegorical tale about two fathers who trick their children into falling in love by pretending to feud. 

“We wanted to open with something that has name recognition and strong artistic value, but is incredibly entertaining. It has a beautiful message, it has a small cast, and it’s not tech-heavy. We selected it at a time when we did not know that we could open to full capacity,” Sanzel said. “We’re coming out of the pandemic, strong but bruised by the world. I thought that was part of the message of the show. It also has a glorious score … I knew that I could put together a very strong cast. I knew it was the right time. It’s manageable as we’re reopening.” 

Sanzel sought out actors with whom he had previously worked, reaching out to individuals with existing connections to Theatre Three. Meg Bush, of Stony Brook, found that returning to the theater was like coming home. While she was growing up, her mother acted in children’s theater and she took acting classes at before making her official stage debut in Theatre Three’s annual production of A Christmas Carol.

“I’ve been an actor since I was 18, when I did all the touring productions, some mainstage productions, and all of the children’s theater. Jeff breathes life and beauty and humor into each show he directs and moments in between too. He is the life and soul of theater; it’s impossible not to be drawn back. It’s a family,” she said. 

Steve McCcoy and Meg Bush star in The Fantasticks. Photo by Peter Lanscombe/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

While Sanzel had artistic and practical reasons for choosing The Fantasticks, Bush,  who plays Luisa/The Girl, views this particular play as both an example and emblem of what makes live theater culturally and emotionally important. “Theater is such a beautifully organic way of producing compassion in everyone who is willing to experience it. We can step into another’s shoes, and open our eyes to the experiences of everyone around us,” she said. “It can be so enlightening and such a gift to see the world outside of our own minds and understand people at their core, without reading it on a page or seeing statistics.” 

Steve McCoy, who plays El Gallo/The Narrator, also has a long history with Theatre Three. Already working as a professional actor, he first appeared onstage in Kiss Me, Kate. Later, when he was exploring the production and administrative elements of creating theater, McCoy took a job as associate artistic director, a position he held for seven years before he returned to acting full-time. “I still consider Theatre Three to be my home away from home. I can’t think of a more appropriate and amazing place to get back on stage. It has literally saved my life at times,” he said. 

The reopening of Theatre Three is a chance for audiences and performers to reconnect with each other in a way the pandemic prevented. “Theater offers great adventure, which we have been lacking for at least the past year,” said Bush. “It’s such a gift.”

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson. All seats for The Adventures of Peter Rabbit are $10; Long Island Comedy Festival tickets are $35; and tickets to The Fantasticks are $35 adults, $28 seniors, and $20 students. To order, please call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Theatre Three

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, has just announced the lineup for its 2021-2022 Mainstage season. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors/students, $20 children. To order, please call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

‘Grease’ – Sept. 18 to Oct. 30, 2021

Grease is the word!  Since its electric Broadway debut, Grease has remained one of the world’s most popular musicals!  Funny, frank, and featur-ing the hit songs “Greased Lightnin’,” “You’re The One That I Want,” and “Summer Nights,” Grease follows the journey of Danny and Sandy, alongside the Burger Palace Boys and the Pink Ladies, as they navigate high school to the unforgettable rock n’ roll soundtrack that defined generations. Dust off your leather jackets and pull on your bobby socks, Grease will have you dancing in the aisles!  Please Note: Contains adult themes and situations.

‘A Christmas Carol’ – Nov. 13 to Dec. 26, 2021

“I will honor Christmas in my heart …” Celebrate the season with Long Island’s own holiday tradition and broadwayworld.com winner for Best Play. Follow the miser Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey that teaches him the true meaning of Christmas—past, present and future. As described by Newsday—“There could scarcely be a finer tribute to [Dickens’] legend than A CHRISTMAS CAROL at THEATRE THREE”—chosen as its Number One Holiday Theatrical Event—join us for our 36th annual production of the immortal classic in all of its thrills, music, joy, and spirit.

Ken Ludwig’s ‘Baskerville’ – A Sherlock Holmes mystery – Jan 8 to Feb. 5, 2022

The play is afoot! Comedic genius Ken Ludwig (LEND ME A TENOR; MOON OVER BUFFALO) transforms Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic The Hound of the Baskervilles into a murderously funny adventure. Sherlock Holmes is on the case. The Baskerville heirs have been dispatched one by one and, to find their ingenious killer, Holmes and Watson must brave the desolate moors before a family curse dooms its newest descendant. Watch as our intrepid investigators try to escape a dizzying web of clues, silly accents, disguises, and deceit as five actors deftly portray more than forty characters. Does a wild hellhound prowl the moors of Devonshire? Can our heroes discover the truth in time? Join the fun and see how far from elementary the truth can be.

‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ – Feb. 19 to March 26, 2022

This blast-from-the-past musical takes you to the 1958 Springfield High School prom, where we meet Betty Jean, Cindy Lou, Missy, and Suzy, four girls with hopes and dreams as big as their crinoline skirts! As we learn about their lives and loves, the girls serenade us with over two dozen classic ‘50s and ‘60’s hits including “Lollipop,” “Dream Lover,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” and many more. THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES will keep you smiling in this cotton-candy colored trip down memory lane!

‘Steel Magnolias’ – April 9 to May 7, 2022

Come on down to Truvy’s Louisiana beauty shop where six strong women share their hopes and dreams.  Beginning on the day of debutante Shelby’s wedding, the play traces this eccentric and lovable cast of characters as they support each other through life’s many challenges.  Steel Magnolias is alternately hilarious and touching and—in the end—deeply revealing of the strength that binds these ladies together.  Stop by for some great laughs and unforgettable friendship.

‘Mamma Mia!’ – May 21 to June 25, 2022

ABBA’s timeless hits tell the enchanting story! On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the Greek island paradise they last visited twenty years ago. Featuring such chart toppers as “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!,” and “Dancing Queen,” this is a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget. Get swept away with the worldwide phenomenon MAMMA MIA! Please Note: Contains adult themes and situations.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Theatre Three

Children’s theater at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson returns on July 10 with a perennial favorite, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” – an original musical based on the characters created by Beatrix Potter. Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail, Benjamin Bunny and the McGregors come to life in this Theatre Three tradition. The show runs on Saturdays at 11 a.m. through Aug. 14. All seats are $10. For more information or to order tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Food drive

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson hosts a food and person care items drive to benefit the Open Cupboard pantry at Infant Jesus Church on Saturday, June 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations will be collected in the theater’s parking lot.

The following items are in low supply and greatly appreciated:

Juice, peanut butter, jelly, coffee, sugar, flour, Maseca corn flour, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, cooking oil, oatmeal, pancake mix, pancake syrup, white rice (#1 and #2 bats/boxes), canned fruit, pasta sauce, healthy snacks, boxed milk and paper towels.

They are also accepting donations of grocery store gift cards and cash to purchase whatever is needed. If you prefer, you can remain in your vehicle for a contact-free drop off. For more information, call Brian at 631-938-6464.

The marquee at Theatre Three in April 2021. Photo by Brian Hoerger

After going dark over a year ago, Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will reopen on July 9. The announcement was made in a press release on April 22.

The summer line-up will kick-off with two performances of The L.I. Comedy Festival:  Friday and Saturday, July 9 and 10, at 8 p.m. Featuring stand-up comedians from the New York City and Long Island comedy scene, The L.I. Comedy Festival is the hottest place for comedy. All tickets are $35.

The Mainstage will open with the world’s longest-running musical: The Fantasticks. A boy, a girl, two fathers, and a wall … Here is a timeless tale of love and loss, of growth and acceptance. Featuring a score blending musical theatre and jazz, the show is a heartfelt celebration of moonlight and magic. The Fantasticks will run July 16 through August 15. Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $35 adults, $20 children ages 5 to 12, $28 seniors and students.

Children’s Theatre will return on July 10 with a perennial favorite, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit — an original musical based on the characters created by Beatrix Potter. Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail, Benjamin Bunny, the McGregors and their friends come to life in this Theatre Three tradition. The show runs on Saturdays at 11 a.m. through Aug. 14. All seats are $10.

*Tickets for all above shows go on sale Tuesday, May 4th.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will follow all CDC and New York State safety protocols. Seating for summer events will be assigned based on updated CDC and New York State guidelines. Patrons must wear face covers while inside the theater.

To purchase tickets, please call the Box Office, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at (631) 928-9100.
or visit www.theatrethree.com.

 

 

Volunteers at Theatre Three's food drive. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Volunteers from Theatre Three in Port Jefferson hosted its ninth food and personal care items drive to benefit Open Cupboard Pantry at Infant Jesus Church last Saturday and the donations poured in. 

“We filled the theater’s van three times floor to ceiling and completely filled the hallway of the Convent building where the food pantry is housed. In addition, we received close to $800 in cash and grocery gift cards,” said board member and facilities manager for Theatre Three Brian Hoerger. 

“Our donors have been so generous, and we get a lot of ‘regulars’ each month who always come with bags full of groceries and supplies. People really want to help and always thank us for organizing these events and ask us when we are doing our next one,” said Hoerger. 

The theater’s next drive will be held on Saturday, June 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our amazing volunteers who have given up a part of their Saturday each month to help us collect, sort and carry all of the donations to the pantry. Their dedication is truly awesome. They all deserve a standing ovation!” he said. 

Theatre Three is scheduled to reopen on July 9 and 10 with The L.I. Comedy Festival followed by a Mainstage production of The Fantasticks from July 16 to Aug. 15.

Stock photo

Theatre Three Food Drive

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will hold a Theatre Three Cares food and personal care items drive to benefit the Open Cupboard food pantry at Infant Jesus Church on Saturday, April 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please help those in need. The following items are in low supply and greatly appreciated:

FOOD ITEMS: Apple Juice, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Coffee, Sugar, Flour, Maseca Corn Flour, Mustard, Mayonnaise, Ketchup, Cooking Oil, Oatmeal, Pancake Mix, Pancake Syrup, Canned Spinach, Canned Chopped Tomatoes, White and Brown Rice (1# and 2# bags/boxes), Canned Fruit, Ramen Noodles, Healthy Snacks, Fresh Chicken, Fresh Ground Beef, Hot Dogs, Eggs, Bread and Butter

TOILETRIES: Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Deodorant, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Feminine Pads, Toilet Paper, and Razors

BABY ITEMS: Diapers Size 4 & 5, Pull Ups Size 4T-5T, Baby Shampoo, Baby Wash, Baby Wipes, Baby Powder, Desitin and Lotion

We are also accepting donations of grocery store gift cards and cash to purchase whatever else is needed.

Donations will be collected in the back of the theater on the south side of the building. They are also accepting donations of grocery store gift cards and cash to purchase whatever else is needed. If you prefer, you can remain in your vehicle for a contact-free drop off. For more information, call Brian at 631-938-6464.

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Athena Hall, now Theatre Three, is shown in 1909 on the west side of Port Jefferson’s Main Street. The building has been remodeled extensively during its 133-year history and used for a variety of purposes. Photograph by Waters, photo from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

By Kenneth Brady

In an 1873 column appearing in the weekly Long Island Leader, the newspaper’s publishers bemoaned that Port Jefferson lacked a suitable public hall for lectures, exhibitions, shows and parties.

Lamenting that the village did not have a meeting place to accommodate a sizeable audience, the Leader called upon an investor to build a “creditable” hall in Port Jefferson for assemblies and performances.While waiting for a public-spirited person to construct a large hall in the village, its residents got together at some of Port Jefferson’s smaller venues.

Typical of these settings, Lee’s Hall occupied the top floor of John S. Lee’s tin shop on what is now Port Jefferson’s East Broadway. Dances, suppers, cake walks and sociable’s were held in the building.

Bayles Hall, located in rooms above the second Bayles Chandlery on today’s East Broadway, was another popular gathering place. During one evening, the audience enjoyed a play based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Though horribly cramped, Henry Hallock’s Hall on Main Street featured vocal groups, magicians and outside speakers.

Athena Hall, now Theatre Three, is shown in 1909 on the west side of Port Jefferson’s Main Street. The building has been remodeled extensively during its 133-year history and used for a variety of purposes. Photograph by Waters, photo from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Besides these three halls, other meeting places in Port Jefferson were important to the village’s cultural and social life. Tom Thumb performed at Smith’s Hotel, exhibits were displayed at the local schoolhouse and, in a unique use of the space, concerts were held in John R. Mather’s lumber shed.

Port Jefferson’s houses of worship also hosted a variety of events. Swiss bell ringers played at the Baptist Church, minstrels entertained at the Presbyterian Church and temperance lecturers held forth at the Methodist Church.

Villagers continued to get along without a large hall until 1888 when construction on a spacious meeting house finally began. Fifteen years had passed since the Leader claimed that the demand for a public hall was “growing rapidly” in Port Jefferson. What could explain the delay?

The financial Panic of 1873 and its aftermath brought tight money, sluggish sales and hard times to Port Jefferson, perhaps dampening any enthusiasm for the venture.

The cast of the H.M.S. Pinafore is pictured in 1897 on the stage at Port Jefferson’s Athena Hall. Photograph by Arthur S. Greene, photo from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

As the economy improved, there was renewed interest in the project. L. Beecher Homan, publisher of the Port Jefferson Times, grocer D. Oliver Petty, who’s building also housed the Times, and insurance agent Albert T. Norton were among the investors who financed the hall’s construction. 

Their timing could not have been better. During the 1880s, Port Jefferson began transitioning from a shipbuilding center to a vacationland. With the influx of tourists, businessmen could turn a profit in entertaining visitors on top of the money to be made in satisfying the needs of villagers.

The New Hall, later named Athena Hall, was located on the west side of Main Street and opened on Thursday evening, Sept. 20, 1888, following a parade. The night’s playbill featured local talent.

The public entered the New Hall using a broad staircase leading up to a wide veranda. The frame building, which purportedly could seat 1,000 people, had two levels.

The upper floor included the main hall, a U-shaped balcony, the stage, a space for the orchestra, dressing and property rooms and a committee room. The lower floor contained a coal room and a hot air furnace, pantry, dining room and lower hall.

Remodeled extensively throughout its storied history, what was once Athena Hall has been used as a playhouse, graduation site, movie theater, community center, polling place, machine shop, steam laundry, roller skating rink, radio and television sales store, dance hall and cabaret.

Known today as Theatre Three, the 133-year-old building is a Port Jefferson treasure.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.