Coming to the Town Hall Theatre in Bainbridge is like meeting with an old friend for an intimate conversation. The wood floors creak as you walk up the stairs to the auditorium on the second floor. On a performance night, the smell of popcorn is in the air, and the scuffle of chairs sliding under tables blends with the sound of lively conversations as friends greet each other before the performance. Laughter and sing-a-longs and suprising harmonies of blended voices echo through the dramatic acoustics of this rare proscenium theatre.
You don’t just watch a performance here, you experience it.
The Town Hall Theatre is a unique 1910 vintage theatre on the second and third floors of the Main Street Town Hall building, and has been carefully and patiently restored to its original look. The theatre itself is something to experience – 250 seats, an upper balcony, beautiful restored tin ceiling, and tall columns that frame the wooden stage.It was converted into the Avon Theatre in 1938, becoming a full time movie theatre, but was closed in the 1950s. Its salvation from neglect began in 1976 when a newly-formed all-volunteer group, the Jericho Arts Council, was formed to restore the theatre. Restoration was completed at the end of 2009. Now the Jericho Arts Council is the steward of the Town Hall Theatre, and the group hosts a range of performances in the theatre.
From September to May, the Jericho Arts Council presents an eclectic range of quality, family-friendly programming for all ages. Musical programs include everything from folk to big band to doo-wop, and everything in between. Their Town Hall Opry series is renowned for bringing to Bainbridge the best in bluegrass music from all over the country. In addition, the Out of the Woodwork Players, an amateur theatre group, makes this space their home and performs live theatre in a few key performances during the year. The beautiful gallery space adjacent to the theater features local and regional artist’s work in conjunction with the musical performances. Two student art shows introduce the work of area students, and the annual Fine Arts Show takes place each spring and showcases artists from all over the northeast.
One group that performs annually at the theatre to an increasingly loyal crowd is the Susquehanna String Band. When this group of traditional musicians was organizing themselves in the late 1970s, it was the early days of theatre renovation, and the only space for groups to play was on a small part of the stage area, where audience seats shared the space with performers. Known as the Back Stage Café, this space launched the group in a supportive, hometown environment. The trio of accomplished musicians who make up the band are John Kirk, Dan Duggan and Bainbridge native Rick Bunting. This group has played concerts in schools, in dance halls, and on concert stages, but each year they return to the venue that holds such dear memories as the place that started it all.
Many people return to the Town Hall Theatre to enjoy a favorite performer or to listen to someone new. A night at the theatre in Bainbridge invites attendees to get up and mingle, to greet old friends and make some new ones, to enjoy fresh-made baked goods and to look around at the delightful architectural elements of the space. Though the theatre is disguised from the main street it borders by the plain front of the Town Hall building, behind this ordinary façade hides some of the rich heritage and culture of Bainbridge.