Reflecting On 20 Years
Updated: Feb 2
By Ginny Brennan, Producing Director
The year 2020 was a year like no other but it has also been a time to reflect. Instead of my usual routine of being at Music Mountain Theatre every day, I now go and check the mailbox like Charlie Brown on Valentine’s Day. Because I have so much time to spare these days, I decided it was a good time to tell you how Music Mountain Theatre (MMT) came to be…
Music Mountain Theatre opened in October of 2017 with an opening night gala and a sold out performance of The Phantom. Ironically that same show was my son Jordan’s 1st performance on stage at age 10 so it holds a special place in my heart. It was the beginning of MMT…but the real beginning was many years ago in September of 2001!
After spending years at other studios waiting for Jordan to finish a class or a rehearsal I thought a lot about the struggles of some kids who needed a place to feel comfortable and thrive in the arts, so I opened Downtown Performing Arts Center (DPAC) on Main Street in Lambertville as a small performing arts studio offering classes for children and teens but no drama…get it?
At the time I was still also working as a job coach where I met a wonderful group of special kids who loved theatre which promoted me to create a class for developmentally delayed actors and two of the boys (although they insist I call them men now) are still my students at the MMT Theatre School today.
We held classes at DPAC’s first location for several years and eventually ran out of room and moved to a larger studio down the street. Jordan returned from New York and along with Louis started to teach at DPAC while performing at BCP…we seem to use a lot of initials! We began to involve more adults in our program and started producing children’s theatre using ‘high schools, churches and anywhere we can could find with enough space.
By this point the studio had grown again and we moved to a larger space in Mt. Airy. Around the same time, I got a call from a friend suggesting we check out The Open Air Theatre at Washington Crossing State Park for a performance venue. OK… so I had to put in a bid (what’s a bid?) and after 10 years DPAC finally had a performance space which began 7 seasons at OAT (as it was fondly called). I am definitely using the term fondly loosely. We spent weeks with a lot of help from our theatre community, cleaning, painting, adding a stage and wings and auditioning. Once the word got out that we were planning a season from May until October with main stage and children’s theatre, we bean auditioning hundreds of children and adults for roles (which is a good topic for another blog entirely)
The wonderful part was the theatre gave us more exposure and our audiences began to grow. We had our “regulars” and we began to feel like a community…. a family! The not so wonderful part was it gave us a lot of exposure - to thunder storms, trying to predict the weather with every app known to man, bugs, HEAT, cold and a snake or two. Yup snakes, I’m happy to share those stories, just ask me!
As the seasons went on, the idea of moving indoors prompted us to form a nonprofit organization for the purpose of finding the perfect location. We tried for 2 years with a very dedicated board of directors and we looked at every option in the area. We spent time and money researching moving into downtown Flemington but we kept hitting snags and since “hindsight is always 20/20” ….it turned out these snags were for the best because we are exactly we are supposed to be.
On my way to the studio one day I glanced over and saw a small sign “Warehouse for Rent”, called Strober Wright Roofing who owns the property and went in to talk with Mike Strober. I explained our plans for a theatre and he simply said OK. My first thought was “Oh, no, now what???”, but this generous man and his company agreed to rent us the entire space and help fit it out for a theatre. We worked with architects and engineers and plans were drawn. We worried as things were added to the building costs that it would all fall apart, but it never did.
Once we realized we were at the foot of Music Mountain and the historic Music Circus, the name Music Mountain Theatre was born. We felt it was fitting to be able to bring music and entertainment back to the area. With the help of everyone at Strober Wright, our Board of Directors, lots of donations, some begging of family, friends and hundreds of volunteer hours, we opened on October 6th 2017. I am so proud of our accomplishments and everyone who helped make a dream a reality.
Up til March of 2019, we have produced 200 shows since 2010, offered ASL relaxed performances and helped raise money for Fisherman’s Mark, Broadway Cares, Lambertville Free library and other community organizations. We opened the Theatre School offering classes for performers of all ages which takes me back to my roots with DPAC.
So as I reflect on the amazing performers who grace our stage, the dedicated staff and crew, talented teachers, amazing volunteers and the wonderfully loyal patrons who make all this possible, I realize how lucky we are. Also I would be remiss not to specifically thank Jordan Brennan and Louis Palena for being the best parts of the “DPAC 3PAC”
I can’t wait to see everyone again soon. I miss you all! Be safe, stay healthy and get ready for theatre to be back!