Steel River Playhouse originated in 2001 in neighboring Chester County. In the emotional wake of September 11, professional and community artists, educators, and area residents began imagining how the performing arts would help heal and bring people together. In 2003, having already produced several concerts, operettas, and musicals, the organization filed for nonprofit status as a 501(c)(3) under the name “Village Productions.” Later, Village Productions would be doing business as (DBA) Tri-County Performing Arts Center (Tri-PAC).
The Move to Pottstown
In the meantime, leaders exploring the future of Historic Pottstown concluded that a regional arts center in the downtown would help anchor its cultural and economic redevelopment. Our own research in 2005 identified an enthusiastic region that supported the idea of a performing arts center.
So that year, Village Productions moved its operations to Pottstown and set to work developing a performing arts center that could accommodate diverse performance styles, as well as studio spaces for classes, rehearsals, private voice, acting, and instrumental lessons.
We opened our current theater at 245 E. High Street in December 2008, and at that time began operating under the more descriptive, but not evocative interim name of Tri-County Performing Arts Center.
A New Brand, A Bold Façade – Our New Future!
Our permanent Steel River Playhouse name honors the rich traditions of Pottstown, with a contemporary twist. “Steel River Playhouse” is grounded in Pottstown’s history of the steel industry, first with the John Potts forge and then with Bethlehem Steel. And, our name is rooted in Pottstown’s distinctive geography. Situated where the Schuylkill River and Manatawny Creek flow together, Pottstown is the headquarters for the vibrant National and State Heritage Area for the 135-mile Schuylkill River.
Our new name is also evocative of both the organization’s creative, engaging programming as well as the physical elements of the facility itself. Our facility, originally the J.J. Newberry Department Store, blends old and new. When ongoing renovations are completed, it will feature a flowing steel mesh façade, high-tech marquee, and engaging outdoor plaza leading to its funky, urban interior of original hardwood floors, brick and cement walls, and raw wood joists, highlighted throughout by exposed I-beams stamped with the iconic “Bethlehem Steel.”
Steel River Playhouse is part of the creative revitalization of this historic city, one of the exciting developments that signify the “coming of age” of our organization.