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The “official story,” then, is that there is no story.
In addition to the question of how the fire started, one is left wondering why there are no records of a fire that, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal, brought nine fire departments and 150 firemen to Vanderbilt Lane on April 28, 1987.
“It was kept a mystery to us,” Biff McGuire declared.
No witnesses and no report. Rumors based on hearsay and inference are all that remain—and persist. An unfortunate legacy for a place that so many remember with such fondness.
I spent four arduous and unforgettable summers at the Playhouse—two seasons as an apprentice and technician during the “star package” years of Peter O’Rourke, when plays featuring TV and movie stars came through every week and big bands like Count Basie’s and Lionel Hampton’s performed on dark nights; and two with the Abraxas Resident Theater company, in every capacity from producer and designer to actor and director. Almost anyone who has ever worked in summer stock will tell you that it was some of the hardest work they’ve ever done and some of the most fun they’ve ever had. From apprentices and staff to actors and technicians, everyone squeezes into one roller-coaster car for a dizzying and exhausting three-month ride.
Like Marjorie Gateson, the Playhouse has slipped into history, but its tradition continues in the memories of those who worked, performed, and attended plays there-—which in some ways is fitting, for that’s also the nature of live theater. Once a performance is over, it’s gone, and all we have is how we remember it.
Still, said Polly Masters, “I’d love to do it again!”
at the Hyde Park Playhouse
Francis F. Coppola (director)
Olivia de Haviland
- Courtesy Patricia Graf
- ABOVE: A SUSPICIOUS FIRE DESTROYED THE HYDE PARK PLAYHOUSE ON APRIL 28, 1987.PREVIOUS SPREAD: AN UNDATED PHOTO OF THE COURTYARD OF THE PLAYHOUSE, MOST LIKELY FROM THE LATE 1950s.