1809 Theatre opens as The New Circus (equestrian acts). A few years later, an 80-foot dome was added, making it the highest structure in the city at the time. The dome remained until the remodeling of 1828. Earlier this month the Walnut Street Theater held it’s 200th Anniversary Gala to celebrate this milestone and in doing so many of her alumni came home to perform snippets from the shows they had appeared.

Founded in 1809, the Walnut is America’s oldest theatre and the oldest continually operating theatre in the English-speaking world. The self-producing non-profit company boasts a 57,000 member subscriber base, the largest in the country. A cocktail party kicked off the festivities and took place in the lobby of the theater.• Since 1985, Studio 5, a 52-seat black box theatre located on the Walnut’s fifth floor, has been rented out to local theatre companies. The Arden Theatre Company, founded in 1988, played its first two seasons at the Walnut.
• Ticket sales account for only 85% of the cost of producing shows on the Walnut’s mainstage. The remaining 15% is generated through donations, and corporate sponsorships.
• Currently, the Walnut is the largest subscribed regional theatre company in the world, with over 57,000 subscribers annually.
Bernard Harvard and Sheldon Lubliner – For the past 26 years, Bernard Havard has been the top gun at the Walnut Street Theatre. As producing artistic director, he expanded the theater’s subscription base to the largest in the country. While other Philadelphia troupes have staffs ranging in size from 15 to 30, Havard employs close to a hundred. While others sell 6,000 or 7,000 subscriptions, the Walnut sells 56,000, including its studio and children’s productions. Annual attendance exceeds 300,000. Born in England, Havard emigrated to Canada and was educated at the University of Alberta and the Banff Centre for the Arts. He got an Equity card acting on TV in Calgary. He was managing director of the Alliance Theatre Co. in Atlanta from 1977 to 1982, when he came to the Walnut. Havard made the Walnut a nonprofit producing company, rather than just a booking theater, and in 1985 he created its theater school. (City Paper 1/17/02)
Jason Lewis, Scott Ambrass and Congressman Robert Andrews (D-NJ)The star-studded party began at the theatre, with performances “highlighting some of the great moments in recent Walnut history, while paying tribute to 200 continuous years of theatre at the corner of 9th and Walnut.” The post-show reception was held in the Ballroom at the Benjamin Franklin House.

The Orphan Ensemble from the Walnut’s productions of Annie (2003) and Annie Warbucks (2004) performed “It’s A Hard Knock Life”
Michael Reitter, Mike Toub and Allen Hampton enjoy the festivities. Michael and Allen are long time subscribers of the Walnut Street Theater, which is very admirable. Why travel to NYC when you can see a Broadway quality show here in Philadelphia at one of the dozens of theaters that Philadelphia has.
This sweet child put together the dessert room, which was delicious. Marilyn G. Marshall has worked at the Ben Ballroom for 28 years.
Mary Jan Hovian, Choreographer of Hairspray and Connie Schaefer

Hugh Panaro, Walnut Street Theater’s Andrew Terranova and guestJason Lewis and Andrew Kindig
Paul Schoeffler who provides voices for many of the cartoon characters on the Cartoon Network Channel
Scott Greer, Jesse Bernstein, Steven Klien, Frank Ferrante, Matt Pfeiffer, Aaron Cromie, T.J. Sokso and Jeffrey CoonTODAY With more than 20 productions, over 600 performances and over 350,000 attendees each season, Walnut Street Theatre is the most active theatre company in the region. Our education and outreach programs reach over 110,000 students and their families each year. As a producing company, we hire hundreds of the nation’s best artists from Philadelphia and around the world. We continue the tradition of creating some of the best professional productions in the United States. In 2009, Walnut Street Theatre celebrates its 200th anniversary.
And it there were an award for the best theater seats, Walnut Street Theater would come in first. I’m a big guy and there was still ample space for me to rest my hands on my side. 2nd Place goes to the Kimmel Center, 3rd to the Suzanne Roberts Theater. Last place The Academy of Music, I’d rather stand. (Sunday’s Inquirer 2/8/09)

Our friends over at Streettalkin did a piece on the Walnut Street Theatre 200th Anniversary